Desi Bourgeois, owner of Grown & Grazed and the Heard Freighthouse Food Park in downtown Ruston, has been named a 2023 Chef to Watch by Louisiana Cookin’ Magazine. He was presented the award at the Chefs to Watch Dinner on Thursday, October 12 at the Southern Hotel in Covington, La.
Louisiana Cookin’ introduced Chefs to Watch in 2002 as a way of recognizing talented up-and-coming chefs from restaurants around the state who show passion for traditions while delivering fresh, new concepts. The annual roster features talented individuals from diverse backgrounds who are leaving a mark on their communities. Bourgeois is the first chef to represent Ruston & Lincoln Parish since the recognition was created 22 years ago. He is one of six Louisiana chefs to be awarded the distinction this year.
“Being chosen as a Chef to Watch validates what we’re doing here at Grown & Grazed, and the concept of the Heard Freighthouse as a whole,” said Bourgeois. “We sent a message about the quality of food we can sustain with this model and the message is getting through. Now it’s put us in a group of people who are in the top of their game throughout the state.”
All six chefs featured a signature dish during the Chefs to Watch Dinner hosted by Louisiana Cookin’ on October 12 at the Southern Hotel in Covington, La. Bourgeois served chicken confit over dirty rice topped with a crispy chicken skin and parsley oil with a side of sweet potato hash. True to his approach of using locally sourced ingredients, the dish featured chicken from Mahaffey Farms and popcorn rice from Baker Farms.
“I had so many people come up to me and say, ‘your dish tasted just like my grandmother’s Thanksgiving dinner,’” said Bourgeois. “I approached it as a special occasion dish. It isn’t something that is served on our everyday menu at the food truck, but it tells the story of who I am as a chef. I like taking familiar flavors and reworking them into new things, like our sweet potato hash with bourbon glaze – it’s our version of candied yams. And it resonated with people because it’s reminiscent of the holidays, which are the ultimate special occasion.”
Bourgeois was able to share the evening with friends and family who attended the event. An element that made the dinner even more special was getting to work alongside a childhood friend who served as his sous chef. Caine Thomassie and Bourgeois grew up together in Galliano, La. and followed similar culinary career paths. Bourgeois invited Thomassie to attend the event, but Thomassie insisted on rolling up his sleeves and helping him in the kitchen.
“Having Caine there as my sous was so nice. I knew I could trust him with the dish because it’s how we grew up making it,” said Bourgeois. “It only took us 25 years, but we managed to finally get in the kitchen together.
In reflecting back on the evening, Bourgeois was grateful for the experience and the connections made throughout the event.
“The event was unbelievable. I got to work with some really good chefs who are doing amazing work in their own respects,” said Bourgeois. “There was great camaraderie from everyone. We all pitched in together, helped plate each other’s dishes, and got 120 plates out in 15 minutes every course. It was super fun!”
Experience Ruston served as a sponsor of the Chefs the Watch Dinner and attended the event to support Bourgeois and his continued commitment to developing Ruston as a culinary destination.
“We’re so proud of Desi and the incredible work he is doing for our local culinary scene,” said Amanda Carrier, President & CEO of Experience Ruston. “He is more than deserving of this recognition and we look forward to seeing how his talent, creativity, and entrepreneurial spirit continue to transform our community one meal at a time.”
To taste Chef Desi’s culinary creations for yourself, visit his food truck, Grown and Grazed, located in the Heard Freighthouse Food Park in downtown Ruston. More information about the food park can be found at heardfreighthousefoodpark.com.
Tori is a Shreveport native who planted roots in the piney hills of Lincoln Parish in 2017. She has a passion for destination development and marketing and aims to spend every bit of her free time making memories with her husband and two daughters. As Director of Marketing and Communications, Tori supports the President/CEO of Experience Ruston in implementing new marketing plans and content strategies to help promote Ruston/Lincoln Parish as a premier tourist destination.