Mardi Gras for a Cause
Jimmy Carbone does not care about Mardi Gras. He cares about a lot of things, but the excuse to get drunk, get naked and collect shiny plastic baubles is not one of them.
He does care a great deal about gumbo-"After Katrina, I spent six months working on a good, dark roux; cooking it every day for six months to get it right. That's when we had our first gumbo event," he said-and he cares about helping farmers, food producers and other advocates for local, sustainable food systems.
That's why his restaurant, Jimmy's No. 43 (43 E. 7th St., at 2nd Ave., jimmysno43.com), is hosting their N'Orleans Style Gumbo Cook-Off to benefit Chefs for the Marcellus this Sunday, Feb. 19, from 1-3 p.m.
By night, Carbone is a beer aficionado. He founded the Good Beer Seal to help identify other bars in New York City that take the same care in sourcing and serving craft brews as he does at Jimmy's No. 43; to qualify, bars must be independently owned, serve 80 percent craft beers and be active members of the community.
By day, he runs Food Karma Projects, the umbrella under which he organizes food-centric fundraisers, bringing together other likeminded chefs, restaurateurs and passionate amateurs to support a variety of causes, from the New Amsterdam Market to Slow Food NYC, Food Systems Network NYC and New Orleans reconstruction efforts.
"We've had a chowder cook-off, we do cassoulet, we have a duck-off coming up next month," Carbone listed. "It's a unique way to support groups we believe in."
From using his restaurant's empty back room-"it's such a clean way to fundraise," he explained, "since it's essentially wasted space during the day, we just turn over the entire place and the entry fee can go directly to the organization"-his charity efforts have spread around the city all the way down to Governors Island.
The environmental concern on the tip of most New Yorkers' tongues right now is fracking, the gas extraction process that decimates ecosystems by polluting groundwater with a potent chemical cocktail. Chefs for the Marcellus, the beneficiary of this Sunday's event, is an organization of New York food professionals actively advocating against fracking in the Marcellus Shale, a region that encompasses the southern tier of New York State.
Not surprisingly, Carbone is an active member. "It's an issue that affects a number of the farms we buy from," he said. "And Ommegang [Brewery]-their neighbor has a large farm that she just sold to an energy company. If the state allows fracking up there, they told me they're going to have to leave New York."
The cook-off will bring together a number of gumbo connoisseurs, including chefs from The Green Table and Goat Town other food professionals and cook-off circuit regulars. For $20, attendees can eat as much as they can manage, comparing classic renditions and innovations on the Cajun staple to crown the gumbo king (or queen) of New York City.
And to round out the spicy weekend, Jimmy's No. 43 will also be hosting a hot sauce tasting on Saturday. Ten small-batch, locally produced hot sauces will be available to try, with GuS sodas and some of the restaurant's brunch favorites to soothe the burn. That event benefits Rootstown Ohio Farm, whose livelihood was threatened when its crops were decimated in a freak hailstorm.
As for Mardi Gras itself? Jimmy's No. 43 will hold its regular Tuesday night event, a guided tasting of session beers. But if you ask real nice, you might be able to wrangle yourself a bowl of Carbone's gumbo-if you just didn't get enough on Sunday.
Hot Sauce for Ohio Farm Relief, Feb. 18, 1-3 p.m; $10. N'Orleans Style Gumbo Cook-Off, Feb. 19, 1-3 p.m; $20. For more information, visit jimmysno43.com/events.
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