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Chef Finds Passion Through His Local Roots

Chef Louie Night is an interactive night out, where 60 guests vote for an unusual four-course meal of their choice online before the gig. They have their cake, and eat it, too.

It all started in 2003, where Louie DiBiccari and his roommates would invite girls and friends over hopefully to impress them with his cooking skills at his childhood home in South Lynnfield. If that name sounds very familiar to Wakefield residents, it's because DiBiccari's father, Louie, is the owner of Beyond Self Defense in the downtown.

Nearly 10 years later, DiBiccari runs his own company, Chef Louie Night, where he hosts a cooking demonstration every three months to cook nontraditional food of guests' choice. Organizers host the night seasonally to build up customers' anticipation and to be consistent.

Their tag-line is: "Let us play with your food." But Jeannie Hannigan, of Allston, marketing and public relations manager, said they only have a few hours notice to buy the food, prep, and cook it, who has worked for the company since spring 2010.

"The menu is revealed at 10 a.m., they're out the door by 11 a.m., and in the kitchen prepping by noon," Hannigan explained.

She explained in an e-mail, "Chef Louie Night is an interactive, Iron Chef style dining experience. Guests vote on themes and ingredients at www.cheflouienight.com prior to the event, and the results are not revealed to Louis and his kitchen team until the morning of the event. They must then run around like maniacs shopping, cooking, and ultimately putting together a four- course, plated meal for a crowd of 60 diners. Recently, we've also incorporated a video component into Chef Louie Night -- video is taken throughout the course of the day and uploaded to YouTube in as close to real time as possible so guests can see the action taking place in the kitchen before coming in for dinner that night [attached]." 

According to orchestrator Louis DiBiccari, guests will try anything extraordinary -- even rum and coke salmon with a wine garnish -- joking that restaurants would go out of business if they served these items on the menu. If guests hadn't vote for the menu items, they'd look at the chefs as if they had six heads. At another Chef Louie Night, guests requested the theme of 'something orange', which meant the crew loaded up two shopping carts with obnoxious orange foods, such as food coloring, orange pasta, and junk food.

According to Louie's father, his cooking style is French Bistro and he joked half the time he doesn't know what he's eating (or the ingredients in it), but his son always makes a concoction. He tends to use fish, duck, meatballs, pasta and pork in his dishes, but not all at once. His father's favorite dishes are turkey and sides on Thanksgiving Day.

Guests expect the unexpected -- compare it to attending a boxing match, dinner party, and rock concert all in one.

"We're really approachable," the chef pointed out. "You get to meet the people who prepared the food for you. We introduced a new element -- film -- to everything we do, where camera guys follow us around the kitchen to tell us what happens chronologically, including buying the ingredients, prepping and guests arriving. We're evolving through social media and technology, because a lot of restaurants serve good food, but what else can we do? How can we give people what they're attracted to on Bravo, TV Network, Phantom Gourmet, and reality T.V.?"

To see some of this food preparation in action, check out this YouTube video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xx6bNiIGqg8&list=UUzsd60BKl2dg9MqZqYCjP3Q&index=3&feature=plcp. 

Dan Andelman, of Wellesley, actually hosts and produces the Phantom Gourmet on TV38 Saturdays and Sundays at 10:30 and 11 a.m. (http://boston.cbslocal.com/personality/dave-andelman/). They met at and played on the soccer team.  

"Lynnfield deserves some great restaurants," Andelman continued. "Davio's, King's Bowling Alley, and Legal C Bar are opening at the Colonial, off Walnut Street. I hope more and more kids coming out of Lynnfield are interested in food," adding that DiBiccari's Italian mother inspired his culinary skills. 

The first question his parents asked when he came over was: "Do you want to sit down to eat?"

DiBiccari's passion for food sparked when he was studying liberal arts at Fitchburg State University and didn't like the cafeteria food. He went home to learn how to make marina sauce and then transferred to culinary school in Arizona.

Organizers have established a pre-structured ticket price with a partnership with the Boston Center for Adult Education at 122 Arlington St., Boston (where the nights are held). For general admission, guests pay $75 for a full-course meal plus beer and wine. Or $95 to view two open kitchens from 6-9:30 p.m. They can upgrade to the Kitchen Experience, where they show up at 2 p.m. to spend the day and evening cooking with chefs for $125, where they join the rest of the night crew at 6 p.m. They have also done three events at Jerry Remy's. 

Pop-up restaurants are a trend to open a food joint in an unusual location, such as the Boston Center for Adult Education. The next gig will be Oct. 14, and the last one was July 15 [pictured].

To reserve tickets, sign up for the mailing list on the Web site and Like the Facebook page, http://www.facebook.com/cheflouienights. Paypal is available on the Web site.

A pool of 14 rising stars from around the city are candidates to be chefs, and the first six to reply to his invitational email will work the venue.

Since alcohol is included in the ticket price and there are liquor sponsors, the gig is 21-plus. 

Now a downtown Boston resident, he attributes his inspiration from fond memories of growing up in Lynnfield. He calls Lynnfield the 'center of the universe' since he always sees Lynnfield residents around Boston. His passion for culinary arts began when he made calzones for his buddies at football games back in the day.

"It's an amazing feeling to have everyone appreciate not knowing what I'm going to make," he told Lynnfield Patch. "It became something better the next week, and less and less about Monday night football, but more about the positive reaction," adding that playing sports there had a significant impact on how he propels himself to advance in his career.

As to Hannigan's thoughts on their experience working together, she stated, "It's crazy and fun. During the day, we're running around like maniacs. We both have a ton of work to do. But it's totally worth it at the end of the day." They meet for four hours every Sunday to plan social media posts, video edits and press releases.

There is a diverse crowd, including regulars, of a melting pot ranging from recent college graduates, young professionals, to established professionals.

DiBiccari Sr believes the gig won't attract his age group but is geared towards the young crowd.

"It's very nice for a 30-something group," DiBiccari Sr pointed out. "It's a nice place to meet and socialize with people who are heading in the right direction, have an education, and are going to be successful."

The language of the Web site reflects their fun brand and younger audience. 

"We don't take ourselves too seriously," Hannigan explained, "Our language is laid-back and not too formal."

For a glimpse of the informal language on http://www.cheflouienight.com/about/index.html, one paragraph reads: "Despite the fact that Chef plays Beirut like a BU frat boy and picks up chicks at Lynnfield High while wearing his letterman jacket (FYI, not fooling anyone dude...), we can’t allow anyone under 21 into these events. The upside is, that means we’ve always got some good booze in store for everyone who IS of age, so get ready to have a good time."

Andelman added DiBiccari is a fun, goofy guy, and that dishes infused with alcohol are a favorite: "A lot of chefs are grumpy in the kitchen with strict time complaints, but Louie's having fun no matter what's going on. It only happens several times a year, but you gotta try it."

In response, DiBiccari pointed out, "Danny and I graduated high school together. He's so good at what he does in T.V. production and showing people what's happening in food. His brother, Dave, told me a long time ago to come up with something that makes us different. Look at the Phantom Gourmet -- they're constantly re-inventing themselves."

To view his personality and a live Chef Louie Night, visit: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=edeR1fNCoG4&list=UUzsd60BKl2dg9MqZqYCjP3Q&index=1&feature=plcp.

Andelman remembers his Pioneer summers traveling to Newport, R.I., where DiBiccari hosted a five-course meal, complete with clams and lobsters, without a grill. 

Today, DiBiccari is an executive chef at Storyville in Back Bay, Boston, but along with his brother, Mike [pictured], he plans to open a neighborhood restaurant, near the Boston Children's Museum. There will be a grab and go option during the afternoon hours, and a more relaxed atmosphere at night, where customers are welcome to use their laptop. Hannigan also works at Ninety Plus Cellars, where she does public relations for the wine industry.

"Chef Louie Night will benefit greatly from the new restaurant," DiBiccari added. "That is what's been missing the entire time. It's easier to promote the event if it's our own restaurant."

Melissa Schools September 05, 2012 at 10:10 AM
What a fun idea! Thanks for getting the word out, Patch!
Tara Vocino September 05, 2012 at 02:21 PM
No problem, Melissa. So glad you like it!
Marcia J. September 05, 2012 at 02:36 PM
Fantastic idea! I think even an older crowd would enjoy this experience.
Tara Vocino September 05, 2012 at 02:42 PM
Thanks for your comments, Marcia. All ages are welcome!

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