Dust off your fascinators and stock up on the mint, it’s almost time for the Kentucky Derby. As we get ready to throw our Derby-themed party (which horse will win it all?), we asked Louisville-chef Anthony Lamas, chef and owner of Seviche, for an insider's tips and tricks to the perfect fete.
How did you wind up cooking in Louisville, Kentucky?
I met a Kentucky girl in San Diego California.
Set the scene for our TLK readers! What happens to Louisville during the Derby?
It is a very exciting time for our city to shine. It’s kind of like having a Super Bowl every year. Financially, the week is a significant part of our sales, and a time where a lot of people visit our restaurants. It’s always exciting to hear from people how they didn’t expect to find a restaurant like Seviche here in Kentucky.
Tell us your favorite ways to celebrate this local event. Do you have annual rituals? Parties? Ways to honor the race?
One of my favorite events is the Taste of Derby, hosted by Churchill Downs. It’s a kickoff party for the weekend’s festivities. They fly in chefs from all over the world for the event and, since its inaugural year, I have been the local chef that represents the Derby. I’m very proud to display my Latin flavors with Southern ingredients, as well as be a Latino chef representing this great race. Being a father is an important part of this event for me, as well, because it raises money to help feed children. After the Taste of Derby kickoff, it’s all work for the restaurant people. We serve hundreds of people in just a few days, so we have to stay focused and healthy. But, after Derby night dinner service, it’s time to party!
What are your favorite Derby recipes?
The mint julep is a classic Derby drink, and we like to give it a twist by making it in the style of a mojito. We muddle the mint, lime and sugar, and then add bourbon, and garnish with a sugar cane. Of course, there's also the classic “Derby Pie” using Kentucky pecans, but we add a little dulce de leche on top.
Tell us a little bit about the Southern flavors on display during the Derby.
My menu pays tribute to a lot of Kentucky and Southern ingredients. It’s very natural for me to have grits on my menu, and country ham with some natural spice of course. For example, I’ll take the classic shrimp and grits and give it a twist with roasted poblano chiles, manchego cheese, and a bourbon spiked red eye gravy. Fried green tomatoes? We serve them with “habanero ranch.”