This Lake Charles Food Festival Should be in Your Houston Road Trip Plans — Updated

Louisiana Food & Wine Festival

Located only 144 miles from the center of downtown Houston (just a little over a two-hour drive in normal traffic), the town of Lake Charles is hosting the inaugural Louisiana Food & Wine Festival from Thursday, September 14 through Sunday, September 17. Tickets are available online, and the cost of the individual events comprising the festival range from $65 to $225.  

The new event is hosted by Visit Lake Charles, Rouses Markets is the presenting sponsor, and recently remodeled Horseshoe Lake Charles — conveniently located near Bord du Lac Park, the site of some of the festival’s signature tasting events —  is the official accommodations and casino partner

While there’s no official transportation partner, we checked and found out that FlixBus, which offers onboard WiFi, electrical outlets and restrooms, has a number of direct routes from Houston to Lake Charles, with pickups from downtown, Uptown Park and Baytown. The round-trip fare is just over $55. 

Chef Benchawan Painter.
Chef Benchawan Painter. Photo by Daniel Ortiz.

The goal of the Louisiana Food & Wine Festival is to highlight the state’s exemplary food and beverage scene, as well as its culture, but there’s a dash of Houston flavor as well. Benchawan Jabthong Painter (aka “Chef G), the 2023 winner of the James Beard Award for Best Chef: Texas, is representing her soon-to-relocate restaurant, Street To Kitchen at the festival’s Grand Tasting on Saturday, September 16. Additionally, 2023 James Beard Award Best Chef: Texas semifinalist Greg Gatlin of Gatlin’s BBQ and Gatlin’s Fins & Feathers is participating in the “Fire on the Lake” event on Friday, September 15. (More details on the individual events are below.)  

Greg Gatlin of Gatlin's BBQ and Fins & Feathers
Greg Gatlin of Gatlin’s BBQ and Fins & Feathers. Photo by Lindsey Cooper.

There’s a “Houston relative” participating, too. Executive chef Meg Bickford is representing Commander’s Palace. Some may not know that Brennan’s of Houston has closer ties to that restaurant than Brennan’s of New Orleans (executive chef Ryan Hacker is also participating), as Commander’s Palace was started by the inimitable Ella Brennan-Martin, mom of Brennan’s of Houston owner Alex Brennan-Martin. 

Those are just a few of the participating chefs. The star-studded roster for the four-day festival also includes: 

The complete list of confirmed chefs can be found on the festival website

There are multiple events that comprise the festival, and one type likely to sell out quickly are the Louisiana Inspired Master Classes. These are reasonably priced at $65 each or all four for $199 (plus third-party ticketing fees), and feature some of the top talent noted above. The classes are:  

  • Class 1: Mastering Creole Cooking with chef Edgar “Dook” Chase IV
  • Class 2: Wine Tasting With celebrity chef/TV personality Tiffany Derry and Mollie Battenhouse, Master of Wine of Jackson Family Wines
  • Class 3: Mijenta Tequila with Cajun Favorites with Oscar Valle of Dodo Café & Cocktail Bar, Querétaro, Mexico (paired with local boudin and cracklins)
  • Class 4: Taste the Flavors of Louisiana with Reiniel Vicente Diaz, master distiller of Bayou Rum Distillery 

Here’s the full schedule of tasting events: 

Thursday, September 14

6 p.m.: “Louisiana’s Celebrity Chef Wine Dinner”, SOWELA Culinary, Gaming and Hospitality Center, 3841 Sen. J. Bennett Johnston Avenue. Description: A gourmet food lover’s experience with a six-course dinner, featuring a host of Louisiana’s most celebrated chefs. Many guest chefs will include James Beard Foundation award-winning and nominated chefs will prepare a memorable feast, each chef’s course expertly paired with the perfect wine. A once in a lifetime dining experience, with very limited ticket availability.

Friday, September 15

10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.: “Louisiana Inspired Master Classes”, SOWELA Culinary, Gaming and Hospitality Center, 3841 Sen. J. Bennett Johnston Avenue OR Bayou Rum Distillery, 20909 Lacassine, depending on the class. 

6:30 to 8:30 p.m. “Fire on the Lake”, Bord du Lac Park. Description: A quintessential Louisiana faire la fête and a live-fire cooking extravaganza with a variety of meats, Louisiana Seafood and more – highlighted by some of the South’s most celebrated pitmasters, celebrity guest chefs, local chefs and grill masters. Enjoy unlimited food and wine, beer, and spirits tastings with a souvenir glass, along with zydeco from Horace Trahan & the Ossun Express, along the shoreline of beautiful Lake Charles. 

Saturday, September 16

2 to 5 p.m.: “Grand Tasting”, Bord du Lac Park. Description: A fun afternoon of culinary and beverage tastings, with live music in the beautiful surroundings of the Bord du Lac Park. Tickets are all-inclusive for food and beverage tastings, including a souvenir glass for unlimited beverage tastings from hundreds of wines, beer and spirits exhibitors. Samplings from some of Louisiana’s best destinations and chefs from around the entire state. (See website for full event description.) 

Sunday, September 17

11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 1 to 3 p.m. (two seatings): “Sunday Jazz Brunch”, 4720 Nelson. Description: This lively festival finale event will be one like no other, with an all-inclusive priced ticket featuring unlimited beverage tastings with a souvenir glass, live music, a lavish brunch with carving stations, Coffee:30 signature coffee drinks and beignet station, salad bars, Louisiana Seafood stations, made-to-order omelet stations, desserts and more. A variety of the festival’s official beverage partners will participate with an impressive Bloody Mary Bar, mimosas, sparkling wines, spirits, wine, beer and more. 

A portion of festival proceeds benefit United Way of Southwest Louisiana. Additionally, the charity will receive all proceeds from the silent auction during the Grand Tasting. The Louisiana Food & Wine Festival is also donating funds to SOWELA for culinary student scholarships. 

For full details, visit the Louisiana Food & Wine Festival website, and for updates, follow the festival on Facebook and Instagram.

8/8/2023, 11 a.m.: article updated with new wine tasting class. 

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