First a taste, then a race

Emeril Lagasse & Co. host annual culinary masterpiece

By Michelle Farnham

It’s not often that fine dining, education, and a half marathon converge into one
event, but that’s exactly what makes the Taste of the Race so special.

Back for its fifth year, South Walton Chefs Emeril Lagasse, Jim Richard, and Jim
Shirley host the sold-out culinary experience two nights before the Seaside Half
Marathon and 5K Run. The entire weekend – the race, the culinary event, silent
auctions, and raffles – serves as a fundraiser for Seaside Neighborhood School, the
area’s public charter.

Seaside Taste of the Race
The chefs of the 2019 Taste of the Race gather with Seaside Neighborhood
School students before the night’s big event.

School update

The March 1 evening began with a press conference and VIP reception with Lagasse.

“I’ve heard from a few people already that this is the event of the year they look
forward to, both from a food and beverage perspective, and a student volunteer
perspective,” Lagasse said. “I have seen – not only with my own children, but with a
lot of children I have met here – how lives have changed right here at this little

Rick Helfand, chairman of the Seaside School Foundation, gave an update on the
school’s expansion project, announced at last year’s T.O.T.R.

“With a lot of architects that have been here in the last few months, and Robert
Davis, there’s a few more opportunities that we have now,” Helfand said. “I won’t
say we’re going back to the drawing board, but we’re just reshuffling some things. It
looks like we should start construction before the end of the year.”

“I don’t like to go on the record,” Lagasse interjected, “we will get it built.”

Lagasse also explained the culinary-based curriculum SNS recently adopted, thanks
to the Emeril Lagasse Foundation.

“In home ec classes, they taught very basics: how to boil eggs, maybe to make an egg
salad,” Lagasse explained. “The children here are learning about the soil, what the
soil does to make ingredients, and taking the ingredients and turning them into a
salsa, a guacamole, whatever the case may be. It’s really dotting all of the I’s, and it’s
an amazing opportunity for these kids.”

Seaside Taste of the Race
Chef Joyce Russell of 45 Central stirs the giant pot of her paella.

Shirley’s 45 Central was among the restaurants represented, but he also offered his
love for the educational effort.

“Seaside School is one of my favorite groups to support,” Shirley said. “Cooking,
math, history, physics, nutrition – it all completely intersects in an understandable
way. It’s a way for children to understand food; now they understand the reason
they need to learn this and how it all affects their bodies.”

Focus on the food

Under the tent, more than 30 Emerald Coast food and beverage purveyors
presented samples from the best of their menus.

Seaside taste of the Race
amici’s Jordan Corchis explained the arancini Sicilian rice balls are almost
like risotto, balled up and deep-fried. “It’s a pop of cheese, a pop of rice; it’s really

amici 30A Italian Kitchen of Inlet Beach offered a mini version of its chocolate chip
cannoli, arancini Sicilian rice balls, and Amy’s amici 30A Meatballs.

“They’re pretty much famous,” admitted Executive Chef Manolack Vongsouvanh.

Holly Smith, Kelly Marcuzzi, Meg McClung, and Arwen Tibaldi of Marietta, Ga., were
in town for the race, and pointed to the rice balls as their favorite bites of the

A second group of racers – Stephanie, Carla, Kristi Anne, and Katy from Sealy, Texas,
were blown away by the night’s culinary offerings.

“We said even if we don’t come back for this race next year, we have to come back
for this event!” laughed Katy.

Seaside Taste of the Race
Chef Andrew Dzejak and the Caliza kitchen presented a Gulf shrimp purloo
with Carolina gold rice, chorizo vinaigrette, shaved red onion salad, and cilantro.

Taking a stroll around the tent, tasters could sample black “Forbidden rice” at two
different tables – Perfect Pig and Destin Ice Market 30A – the New York strip with
foie butter from Seagar’s Prime Steaks & Seafood, and the Korean barbecue pork
belly with kimchi and pickled cucumbers from Bud & Alley’s. Restaurant Paradis
offered snapper and grouper ceviche on plantain chips, Shunk Gulley dished bowls
of their Shunk shrimp carbonara, and FOOW mixed things up with their FOOW pho
bowl, served with chopsticks.

Celebrating the recent re-opening and revamping of his Red Fish Taco, Richard
served up grilled Andouille tacos with pepper jack grits, white chipotle barbecue
sauce, and a side of enthusiasm for the event and the school.

“To see the forward momentum of the project is so exciting,” Richard said. “You can
look around at the school and see the changes with the additions of the stage and
the classroom. You can really feel and see and help it grow; it’s the greatest thing to
be a part of.”


Photos by Michelle Farnham