Music may feed the soul, but you still have to feed the stomach. OffBeat asked Jazz Fest musicians what they eat at the Fair Grounds:
“What I usually do at Jazz Fest,” says saxophonist Donald Harrison, “is set up a day for eating and the main focus is not the music. I don’t eat the night before or in the morning. I try to eat as much as I can while there.”
His advice to other eaters?
“Always go for the Crawfish Monica first [Kajun Kettle Foods, Food Area II],” he says. “Everybody does that.”
Singer Banu Gibson seconds Harrison’s advice. “Every year, the first food booth that I head for is Crawfish Monica,” she says. “I was once asked if they were to bury me at Jazz Fest where would it be, and I said in front of the Crawfish Monica booth.”
Pianist David Egan has a different top priority. “Soft shell crab [Galley Seafood Restaurant, Food Area II] is always number one on the agenda,” he says. “Do not pass ‘Go.’ Soft shell crab every time.”
Pianist Jesse McBride also recommends crab. “Those crab cakes [C.P.G. Catering, Food Area I], they are off the chain,” he says.
On the other hand, Ingrid Lucia prefers fowl to seafood. “Last year, that jerk chicken over rice was amazing [Palmer’s Jamaican Cuisine, Congo Square],” she says. “That was my favorite.”
Trumpeter Shamarr Allen is a Jazz Fest veteran, even though he’s leading a band for the first time. “That alligator sausage, that was nice,” he says. “That will be the first thing I run to this time.”
Everyone’s Jazz Fest memories are unique; some more than others. Baton Rouge’s Benjy Davis remembers food that wasn’t there. “I believe it was last year that I had a fried Snickers bar,” he says, but there was no “fried Snickers bar” vendor listed last year.
“The food is an incredibly important part of Jazz Fest. That’s what makes Jazz Fest so great,” Gibson says. “It’s a complete heritage and sense experience. Not only for your ears, but certainly for your taste buds.”