The Emeril Lagasse Foundation's Carnivale du Vin made a big splash in New Orleans on Nov. 9. The culinary-inspired event, held at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, raised a record $3.6 million for children's charities, including Emeril's Culinary Garden & Teaching Kitchen, a program that integrates farming and cooking concepts into school curriculums.
More than 600 guests attended Saturday's live auction, which raised $1.42 million, nearly $300,000 more than last year. Since its inception, the foundation has donated more than $12 million to charity. (Wine Spectator is a co-sponsor of Carnivale du Vin.)
"My wife, Alden, and I are so grateful for the generosity of our sponsors, participating chefs and winemakers, as well as the incredible support from our donors and the community over the past 15 years," said Lagasse. "Together, we've raised funds to support numerous youth-based programs that are working to make a true difference in children's lives. From the bottom of our hearts, thank you to everyone who is supporting our cause."
Carnivale du Vin's theme this year, "15 Stars of Wine and Food," aimed to celebrate the foundation's vision since 2002: to educate children through the power of food. The Krewe du Vin included winemakers from Castello Banfi, Château Gaby and Paul Hobbs Winery, along with chefs such as David Burke, Richard Blais, Sarah Grueneberg and pastry chef Duff Goldman. Luckily, they had a few young professionals to help out.
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"For the fourth year, culinary arts high school students from the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts (NOCCA) designed the four-course menu," Brian Kish, president of the Emeril Lagasse Foundation, told Wine Spectator. "They then prepped and cooked this menu alongside Emeril's culinary team."
Following the dinner, which included Alaskan king crab, yellowfin tuna and roast duck breast, the live auction commenced. The top wine-themed lot was "Bordeaux at Its Best," a chance to enjoy Château Gaby's 18th-century estate, along with its wellness center and three sister properties. Two winning bidders bought the lot, for a total of $120,000.
Other top wine lots included "Cellar Raiders, Secret Suitcase Lightning Round," a total of six VinGardeValise suitcases, containing 12 bottles from attending vintners, with bids totaling $113,000. The Rochelle Trotter collection suitcase, inspired by the late chef Charlie Trotter, sold for $40,000, the highest of the six. The "You've Got a Friend in Napa" lot, a chance to see Napa up close and personal, sold to two winning bidders for a total of $75,000.
The wine kept flowing even after the auctioneers gaveled down the last lot. The fundraising weekend closed in New Orleans fashion as local brass band The Soul Rebels performed alongside a burlesque variety troupe and cirque-style performers.