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Under the hood of 'Under Milk Wood":chef's cut

By Jessie Wightkin and Kristen Gremillion

EDITOR"S NOTE: Shows often have a seasonal run -- a string of four-day weekends over a six- to eight-week period. But peering out from under the heap of rubble that is the New Orleans Fringe Fest, the local Cripple Creek Theatre Company has officially wrapped its fall production of "Possum Kingdom" for a two-night only showing of "Under Milk Wood: In the Walking Haze." Slated as an immersive aural experience, this is a rendition of the 1954 radio drama by poet Dylan Thomas. The evening is made up of  a three-course maritime-inspired meal and all you can drink "Buggerall" cocktails to enjoy during the musical performance, which includes an original soundscape by New Orleans favorite Alex McMurray, of the Valparaiso Men’s Chorus.

This week, we'll hear from the source of each of the production elements: yesterday we featured director Emilie Whelan on this collaborative and interactive vision, and today, Chef Jessie Jessie Wightkin and Kristen Gremillion shed light on their 'maritime-inspired"'menu. Check back tomorrow for Alex McMurray on delving head first into the radio genre through music composition. 

Here is on the Chef Jessie Wightkin and Kristen Gremillion on the food and drink prepared for "Under Milk Wood."

JW on The Food: I have classic fine dining training but spent a lot of my career 'playing' with food and maximizing flavor in odd settings. At Bacchanal, for example, we use to crank out some of the best food in the city, and we did it all on two grills. Taceaux Loceaux is another great example. Our food tastes so good, in part, because we were having so much fun banging out delicious eats from a truck.

The reason I love cooking is I can tell a story through plates of food. It's something magic that happens when people take their first bites and are immediately transported by the food. My work at NOCCA allows me to collaborate with other arts and bring culinary arts to an exciting level.

I love trying to merge cuisine and performance arts, and, for me, the more unusual the venue, the better. I wanted to be a part of this performance because it's an unusual venue to prepare food for people in (a performance; the Saturn bar...). And this performance will do just that; the play guides us through a story, and the food will punctuate the setting with smells and tastes of the sea. I based the menu (see below) off of the those themes -- we wanted to be able to eat the subject matter.

In this city,  food relates to everything. I love that Cripple Creek is playing on that and I had to be a part of it.

Fishermans Stew

Fishermans Stew

First Course:

“Cockle Row Salmon Toasts”

Peat-smoked salmon topped with fresh chives, served on a French bread crostini with a coarse mustard spread.

Second Course:

“Captain Cat’s Fishingboat-Bobbing Stew”

A hearty blend of Captain Cat’s catch-of-the-day; slow-roasted root ; leeks and fennel, boiled in their overcoats; and finished with a pinch of celery seed and a rasher of crispy bacon.

Cocktail:

“Mr. Waldo’s Bubble-and-Squeak”
aka The Buggerall

A nebulous blend of rum, bitters, infused simple-syrup, and fragrant aromatics.

The "Buggerall"

The "Buggerall"

KG on The Drink: Guests attending the Under Milk Wood: In the Walking Haze event will be offered bottomless 'Buggerall' cocktails, more formally titled 'Mr. Waldo’s Bubble-and-Squeak'.  The drink is a nebulous blend of rum, bitters, infused simple-syrup, and fragrant aromatics pulled from the recipe book of the Sailor’s Arms, the bar that Mr. Waldo visits from morning till night. Sinbad Sailor, the proprietor of the Sailor’s Arms, warns excessive consumption of the Buggerall might result in excessive singing, lady grabbing, and paternity summons. Rum and questionable decisions have a long-standing history in Wales; it’s possible Captain Cat and Captain Morgan were friends in a hazy night-dream of Dylan Thomas’ during the many years of Under Milk Wood’s creation.

Meet the chef, Jessie Wightkin

Jessie Wightkin

Jessie Wightkin with Anthony Bourdain

A Native New Orleanian with a history of cooking traditional fare, Jessie studied culinary anthropology at the University of Alabama. She continued honing her craft for over 4 years at the prestigious Commander's Palace, starting as a shrimp peeler and ending up their pastry chef.  Jessie career continued as the Sous Chef at Bacchanal as well as joining the 'girl power' edition of the popular Taceaux Loceaux Food Truck.  Her heart lies just as much in culinary creation as education as she first taught in the Edible Schoolyard and is currently the chef instructor at NOCCA, where she is developing the menu for the Boxcar, NOCCA’s food truck debuting this winter.

When her cuisine isn't catching the attention of culinary legends, such as Anthony Bordain, you can also see her style in action, on the syndicated cooking show Family Style with Chef Jeff, filmed this past summer, in NOLA.

"Under Milk Wood" can be seen this upcoming weekend only (Dec 21-22). Experience a three-course maritime meal, themed cocktails, live music, and a radio-play performance. Buy tickets here.