Our Culinary Entrepreneurs are Winning Awards!

From Jyl Benson, Director of Culinary Programming

The Rouses Culinary Innovation Center by Jenn-Air (aka the CIC or the SoFAB Kitchen) serves an incubator for many culinary entrepreneurs in need of a licensed commercial commissary space while they work to grow their businesses. Our clients include chefs, those in need of a space for a photo shoot, bakers, a jam-maker, and manufacturers of small-batch condiments.

Chef Melissa Araujo, a familiar face in our kitchen, recently took home Third Place for Best Dish at the New Orleans Wine & Food Experience's (NOWFE) Grand Tasting, which featured hundreds of other competitors; and she received a standing ovation for the three-course meal she prepared for NOWFE's sold out Master Class "Portugal's Treasure Trove of Wine." It should be noted Araujo's pop-up, Alma, was the first ever of its kind to be invited to participate in NOWFE.

Chef Araujo uses farm-fresh ingredients to create beautiful foods influenced by her native Honduras. Born in La Ceiba , Atlatidad, a small beach town on the Atlantic coast of Honduras, the chef pays tribute to her grandmother's cooking through her life's work.

"I had no choice but to fall in love with food," she said. "I grew up with a family and food was the center of everything. My mother, Angeolina Araujo, is Sicilian-Italian, and my father, Oscar Araujo, is Honduras-Maya with Portuguese. I was a locavore by birthright, and my early immersion in fresh, local, seasonal ingredients has informed and influenced my culinary philosophy. I love to re-create the story people share with me with the food I cook." 

Chef Araujo will soon begin conducting a monthly series of pop-up Chef's Table dinner's in the SoFAB kitchen. Keep an eye on our events calendar for dates.

She shared her award-winning recipe with us.

Oysters Alma

Serves 12

  • 1 French shallot 1, finely diced
  • 1/4 cup Cabernet Sauvignon vinegar
  • 1/4 cup Louisiana honey with comb (finely dice the comb)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 1/2 cup finely diced English cucumber
  • 1/2 cup finely diced charred pineapple
  • 1/4 cup very thinly sliced radishes
  • 1/4 cup capers, rinsed and drained
  • 12 Gulf oysters, shucked, bottom shells reserved and scrubbed
  • 6 lemon halves, cooked cut side down in a skillet until brûléed
  • Micro greens, for garnish
  1. Combine the shallot, vinegar, honey, honey comb and thyme in a small bowl. Mix to combine. Set aside
  2. Combine the cucumber, charred pineapple, radishes, and capers. Add the reserved vinaigrette. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  3. To assemble, place the oyster halves on a plate lined with rock salt to hold them upright. Use a small teaspoon to top each oyster with the pickled vegetables, taking care to include some of the vinaigrette. Serve the oysters with the brûléed lemons. Garnish with micro greens.