Charboneau cooks for solutions

Published 12:00 pm Wednesday, May 11, 2011

BEN HILLYER | THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT Regina Charboneau will soon travel to Monterey Bay, Calif. for the 10th annual Cooking for Solutions celebration where she will participate in three demonstrations.

NATCHEZ — Natchez native and Southern chef Regina Charboneau will join chefs from across the country at the 10th Cooking for Solutions celebration in Monterey Bay, Calif., May 20-22.

The celebration is a benefit for the Monterey Bay Aquarium where guests enjoy great chefs, gourmet cuisine and fine wines while learning about sustainable foods at dozens of events.

“Sustainability is maintaining or increasing the production of food products like fish and agriculture, without jeopardizing ecosystems,” Charboneau said. “Sometimes you hear people say, ‘Mississippi is so far behind,’ but it’s not, especially when it comes to sustainable products.”

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Charboneau said Mississippi has farm-raised catfish, which is healthy for the environment and keeps rivers from being polluted.

“We also have sustainable produce,” she said. “I am proud to represent Mississippi and what we offer here.”

Charboneau will participate in three of the food presentations. She will join award-winning garden and lifestyle designer P. Allen Smith to talk about heritage poultry and garden-to-table tips.

In 2009, Smith started the Heritage Poultry Conservancy, a nonprofit designed to raise awareness about heritage breeds of domestic poultry.

Smith is the host of two public television programs, “P. Allen Smith’s Garden Home” and “P. Allen Smith’s Garden to Table.” He has authored six books, the latest called, “Garden to Table.”

Smith said he and Charboneau will prepare recipes from the book.

“A couple recipes are from Charboneau’s book, ‘Regina’s Table At Twin Oaks,’” Smith said. “She has been on my show multiple times. We’ve cooked together in Natchez and at my home in Little Rock.”

Smith said their cooking event is centered around food sustainable for land and sea. He said the definition of sustainability depends on the person, but to him, it’s all about choices.

“Simply put, sustainability is about making responsible decisions that impact the planet in a positive way,” Smith said. “Each day we all make decisions about the food we eat, where it comes from and how it’s raised. What I try to do each day is think about those very things, and hopefully over time that can make a difference. I try to influence others to think the same way.”

Smith said he is excited about seeing Charboneau in California.

“Regina has a wonderful sensibility about food, and Southern food,” Smith said. “Southern chefs are really hot right now, and people are interested in approaches that Regina takes to Southern culinary art. Plus she’s a lot of fun and a wonderful person.”

Charboneau said she and Smith work very well together.

“(Cooking for Solutions) is not so much about food, but camaraderie,” she said. “What I love about the week is when the chefs have dinner together — no spouses, just us. It’s a great time to stay connected. You find out what people are doing, and you have the camaraderie. It’s inspiration to meet chefs who feel the way I do about food and have the same interest in it. We keep in touch and support each other.”

Charboneau said the variety of chefs, many who are considered celebrity chefs, run the gamut of personality.

“There are very few events as a chef where you are treated like a rock star like this,” Charboneau said.

All events are sold out and proceeds raised benefit the aquarium.

“It’s nice to still be involved and feel like you’re remembered,” Charboneau said. “I never stop learning because when it comes to food, you’ll never know it all. Sometimes I wish new food would be invented.”

Charboneau said people can educate themselves about sustainable seafood at the Monterey Bay Aquarium website. She said The Markets sell sustainable seafood, like wild-caught salmon.

For an updated list of Southeastern sustainable seafood, visit www. and click on “seafood watch” under the “save the oceans” tabs.