Hemelt: LaPlace chef takes us inside Drew Brees’ birthday bash

Published 12:21 am Saturday, January 19, 2019

The playcall was simple for LaPlace’s Natasha Clement: Deliver delicious and unforgettable food for Drew Brees and his guests at the sports star’s 40th birthday party Sunday evening.

St. John Parish’s own celebrity chef was up for the challenge.

Representing her private chef and catering company Sophisticated Southern Plates, Natasha and a staff of 18 served up cornmeal fried lobster tail skewers with Bulldog Pepper jelly glaze, spicy tuna poke on organic cornmeal chip & toasted sesame seeds, maple & bourbon bacon wrapped jumbo gulf shrimp and massive grilled vegetable platters with balsamic reduction.

The selections were also gluten- and dairy-free.

To cap the experience for New Orleans’ favorite sports star and his many high profile guests, Clement fried 600 beignets perfectly wrapped in personalized Happy Birthday Drew Brees Bags as essential parting gifts.

According to Natasha, and the many satisfied partygoers, Sophisticated Southern Plates represented itself exceptionally well.

“I was extremely nervous that a lot of the staff would be overly excited,” Natasha told me three days after the party, a time period that still hadn’t allowed her to catch a breath.

“In moments the staff (was overly excited) and I had to put them in check a little. But how can you not be excited to be part of such a great event and a surprise party for the best quarterback in the league? With the win tacked onto that, it made everybody more excited.”

The party took place mere hours after the Saints defeated the Eagles to advance to this weekend’s NFC Championship game. It was also a surprise party for Brees, who was two days short of turning 40.

Natasha said she tried to keep it all business for the 14 hours she was onsite at party location Port Orleans Brewing Co., but things got a little squirrely when organizers rolled out the cake for Brees just when rapper Choppa was performing a personalized version of Choppa Style for the birthday boy.

“I was able to stand there, dance and take part in that whole moment,” Natasha said. “That was, for me, my fun part to be up front and center. I’m in all the damn videos on social media. You see this little short girl with blonde hair standing behind the cake trying to get down with everybody else.”

Natasha said the venue and surroundings were as intense a professional setting as she has ever been apart of, a remarkable statement for a chef who won $50,000 in 2016 on the Food Network’s All-Star Academy televised cooking competition.

She is grateful event planners Anna Schaefer and Glenny Beahm of an.gle events gave her company the opportunity to prove itself.

The day was long, as she arrived at 1 p.m. Jan. 13 to work in a kitchen set up outside the brewery and left at 3 a.m. Jan. 14. She was back home in LaPlace at 4 a.m., supporting her husband as he left for work at 6 a.m. and helping the couple’s three children get off to three different high schools for Monday classes.

Natasha launched Sophisticated Southern Plates in 2015, starting humbly by selling mostly bread pudding out of PJ’s in LaPlace before people slowly started booking her for dinner parties.

That expanded greatly over the next four plus years with large parties and grand wedding catering. However, the dream of owning a restaurant still remains.

“The scary part is taking that leap and finding the time between raising three teenagers and being a wife,” she says. “When is the best time to do that when it doesn’t interrupt being part of a family?

“I know the brick and mortar needs to take place, because I’ve gotten so busy that it’s become something I wish was a more stationary project. I would absolutely like to have something, hopefully local if I could. I think there are not enough really nice, cool places that we can venture to in the River Parishes. I would like to bring something to my hometown.”

Stephen Hemelt is publisher and editor of L’OBSERVATEUR. He can be reached at 985-652-9545 or stephen.hemelt@lobservateur.com.