Chef Folse to head River Region tourism campaign

Published 12:00 am Friday, April 25, 2008


Editor and Publisher

GARYVILLE – After several years with the marketing slogan of “Take Me to the River,” the River Parishes Tourism Commission is making a change.

Executive Director Jesse Lambert said the commission began working on the new campaign as much as two years ago, and is now ready to unveil it as early as May or June.

Now using a brand of “New Orleans Plantation Country,” to get a better connection with New Orleans, the River Parishes tourism group is also using a tagline of “Long Ago, Not Far Away.”

And helping begin the promotion of the new campaign this week was world renowned Chef John Folse, who has signed onto the marketing campaign in a big way, allowing his face to be used in River Parish media kits as the culinary connection to the region.

Folse, who grew up at Cabanocey Plantation in St. James Parish, said he is not only glad he was called about the campaign, but feels honored to be involved.

“This is very important to me, to help with the tourism in this area, especially at the plantations as they try to come back,” he said, having donated his time for free to the campaign. “I feel privileged to be involved.”

On Wednesday, Folse was shooting pictures at San Francisco Plantation that will be used in promotional material in the new media kits.

Lambert said there will be a new web site for the River Parishes Tourism Commission, as well as new print ads and a new media kit that is all about to hit the streets to continue what she says is a resurgence of tourism in the region.

“This campaign will help tourists see us as a part of New Orleans, and will help bring more people here,” she explained. “I think that there were times before when tourists thought we were too far out of the way if they came to New Orleans, but now we’re linked as just part of the New Orleans visit.”

Folse had a beautiful spread of food cooked by his staff the night before, and showed it off on a table in front of him as pictures were being taken with the plantation in the background.

He said he wants any opportunity to not only promote River Parishes tourism, but also the entire culture and history, something he is very passionate about.

Folse has received worldwide acclaim for spreading the news of Cajun history and culinary secrets. He has restaurants all over the world that were spawned from his initial eatery, “Lafitte’s Landing Restaurant” in Donaldsonville.

Since beginning his first restaurant in 1978, he has opened restaurants in Japan, Beijing, Hong Kong, Paris, Moscow, London, Bogota, Taipei and Seoul.

“The food in the River Parishes is very special, and I think that is because the mix of people who settled here brought cooking styles from all over the world, and then mixed them,” he said. “I have restaurants in 12 countries, so I have a pretty good idea of the food throughout the world. And I honestly believe the food in the River Parishes is better than anything you will find in the world.”

San Francisco Plantation Director Kim Fontenot was clearly pleased by the presence of Folse on her grounds, and the photo shoot that was going on. She said the tourism business that has been so slow to rebound since Katrina, is continuing to come back a little at a time.

“We had a 30 percent increase in tourists last year, compared to 2006,” she said. “And this year we are seeing some of our old New Orleans companies bringing people out here. I feel optimistic about things coming back, even if it is a little at a time.”

Lambert also reported that Oak Alley, the highest drawing plantation in the River Region, reported to be back to half of their pre-Katrina numbers in the last year of tourism business.