Category Past Events

Host Spotlight: Kristen Essig & Michael Stoltzfus of Coquette NOLA

Our host chefs for have been well known to New Orleans’ locals for a long time. After both spending times in some of New Orleans most celebrated restaurants, this personal and professional pair are now partners in Coquette, the restaurant that Michael founded in 2008. Kristen is an Indie Chefs Week OG, having taken part in one of the first events in Austin back in 2013. Michael’s first experience at ICW was in May 2017 at our New York event.

According to event organizer Grover Smith “We had always wanted to do an Indie Chefs Week in New Orleans ever since we took it on the road in 2014. I have family in the bar industry in New Orleans and had flirted with the idea of moving there a few times, so the draw of the city is not lost on me. But, it took the dogged determination of Kristen and Mike to make it happen and now I’m kicking myself for not doing it sooner. I think the visiting chefs are about to experience something extraordinary.”

Kristen is heavily involved in championing positive change in restaurant culture & inclusivity and sits on the Women’s Advisory Council for Atlanta Wine & Food and Medusa, a New Orleans’ local organization working to eliminate sexual harassment in restaurants. As the mission of Indie Chefs Week is creating a diverse community of chefs across markets to spur collaboration and positive change in restaurant culture, we couldn’t be better aligned.

Kristen Essig Bio

Kristen Essig was born and raised in Florida. After graduating from the Johnson & Wales Culinary School in 1998, Kristen worked with James Beard award winning chefs, Chef Frank Lee of Slightly North of Broad and Chef Louis Osteen of Louis’ Charleston Grill. Seventeen years ago, Kristen made New Orleans her home, kicking off her Crescent City culinary career with Chef Emeril Lagasse at Emeril’s, followed by a four-year turn with Chef and mentor Anne Kearney at the famed New Orleans Restaurant, Peristyle. She joined the Crescent City Farmers Market as market manager where she cultivated strong relationships with local farmers, producers and vendors. She’s been a Louisiana Cookin’ Magazine “Chef to Watch” (2005), a sought-after private chef, and in April, 2013 Kristen returned full time to the restaurant kitchens. Since then she’s been named one of Coastal Living Magazines “5 Coastal Chefs to Watch” (2015), nominated as one of Food & Wine Magazine’s “The People’s Best New Chef” (2015), and one of Times Picayunes Chefs to Watch (2014). Kristen proudly joined the Coquette family in the fall of 2016 as a co-chef and partner with her love, Michael.

Michael Stoltzfus Bio

Although he grew up on a 140 acre working dairy farm on the Eastern Shore of Maryland and enjoyed the freshest products available, Stoltzfus never imagined a career in the culinary industry. Fate or perhaps his mother’s intuition steered him in a fortuitous direction, when a couple of weeks before he was to begin college, his mother decided to open a bakery and enlisted Stoltzfus’ help in running it. Although he knew little more than how to scramble an egg, Stoltzfus found himself cooking breakfast and lunch at the family owned restaurant.

While working at the family bakery, Stoltzfus embarked on his personal culinary adventure, purchasing a variety of cookbooks and began cooking and experimenting at home. At 25 years old, after working at a few restaurants in Maryland, his talents were evident and he was hired to work at New Orleans’ esteemed Restaurant August, where six months later he was promoted to Sous Chef.

His entrepreneurial spirit flared, and in December of 2008, he opened Coquette in a gorgeous two-story Garden District building. Stoltzfus looks at Coquette as a culinary playground where he thrives on designing personalized tastings menus for guests and creating a menu that changes daily. His inspired cooking has earned his restaurant a spot on the Times-Picayune’s New Orleans Top Ten Restaurant List and Stoltzfus has been named a semi-finalist in the prestigious James Beard “Best Chef in the South,” award for the past four years.

ICW Houston

May 3-4-6, 2018

  • 3 nights / 24 chefs

  • Thursday, May 3rd – Dinner at 7:30PM
  • Regular ticket $195, VIP $225
  • Friday, May 4th – Dinner at 7:30PM
  • Regular ticket $195, VIP $225
  • Sunday, May 6th – Dinner at 7:00PM
  • Regular ticket $205, VIP $250
  • A portion of ticket sales supports No Kid Hungry

**Due to the nature of the event, we apologize that we cannot accommodate special dietary requests.**
**Tickets are nonrefundable but transferable**

Congrats to our NOLA Participants who are 2018 JBF Finalists!


March 14, 2018

The 2018 James Beard Foundation Award Finalist Nominations were announced today for 2018 and four of the finalists are participating in our next event in New Orleans. In fact, our host chefs for New Orleans, Kristen Essig & Michael Stoltzfus of Coquette, are finalists for Best Chef South. Other finalists include Kelly Fields of Willa Jean for Outstanding Pastry Chef and Miles Thompson for Rising Star Chef. You can catch Miles Thompson on Thursday, March 22nd and Sunday, March 25th. Kelly will be cooking Friday, March 23rd and Sunday, March 25th. A past participant from our LA event, Jeremy Fox, is a finalist for Best Chef West. His chef de cuisine at Rustic Canyon, Brittany Cassidy, will also be at the NOLA event and is cooking on Friday, March 23rd and Sunday, March 25th.

Past ICW participants also making it to the finalist round this year include Justin Carlisle of Ardent and The Laughing Taco in Milwaukee who is up for Best Chef Midwest. He attended our Houston event this past January. Eduoardo Jordan, who attended LA, is a two time finalist for Best New Restaurant for his second restaurant JuneBaby and Best Chef Northwest. Benjamin Sukle of Oberlin and Providence, was a participant a few years ago in Austin and is a finalist for Best Chef Northeast.

Congratulations to all of the finalists! The question now becomes which of our NOLA participants will be finalists and winners in the future? Don’t miss the opportunity to get to know these chefs, taste their wonderful food, and experience something magical before they become household names. You can find more information including chef roster, schedule, and buy tickets here.



ICW Houston

May 3-4-6, 2018

  • 3 nights / 24 chefs

  • Thursday, May 3rd – Dinner at 7:30PM
  • Regular ticket $195, VIP $225
  • Friday, May 4th – Dinner at 7:30PM
  • Regular ticket $195, VIP $225
  • Sunday, May 6th – Dinner at 7:00PM
  • Regular ticket $205, VIP $250
  • A portion of ticket sales supports No Kid Hungry

**Due to the nature of the event, we apologize that we cannot accommodate special dietary requests.**
**Tickets are nonrefundable but transferable**


ICW Chef Submission

Chefs! Want to participate?

We want to hear from you! We’ve always scoured social media, asked for referrals, and leaned on our extended network of chefs, restaurateurs, and industry peeps to find chefs to participate. However, we realize that we could be missing out on some amazing talent and want to widen our search.

The ideal candidate is an amazing cook, runs his or her own place (or is a CDC or sous or pastry) at an independent restaurant, comes with a positive attitude and is ready to collaborate and make friends. That’s pretty much it. If you fit the bill, please submit a complete application below. We have not filled out our 2018 rosters yet and still have 5 more cities to go for the year!

If we don’t reach out immediately, don’t fret. Please only submit one application; multiple submissions will disqualify you from consideration. Your submit form must be complete to be considered. Thank you for your interest!

Chef Submission

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  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Free Press Houston – Indie Chefs Week brings new voices to the table

Indie Chefs Week Brings New Voices to the Table this Weekend
Free Press Houston
By Cat Modlin-Jackson
1/1/2018

Indie Chefs Week isn’t hosting another food and wine festival. There will be no chefs under pop-up tents, no lines of guests, no tiny bites on tiny plates or mini cocktails in plastic cups at Indie Chefs Week. Guests can expect to eat food off real plates and drink fine wine in actual glassware while taking in a culinary collage of some of the country’s most underrated talent. The founder of Foreign & Domestic in Austin, Ned Elliott is working with Grover Smith, former general manager of the Pass & Provisions, to throw the event in Houston for the first time.

Smith calls it an “anti-food and wine fest.”

For three nights, January 5-7, more than twenty chefs will gather in a Midtown restaurant to collaborate on three dinners. Five locals, including Jillian Bartolome of Aqui and Justin Yu of Theodore Rex and Better Luck Tomorrow, will cook alongside innovators hailing from New York to California and plenty of places in between.

Eleven cooks will fill the kitchen on Friday and Saturday nights. Each course served will be the unique design of a participating chef, who will lead the others through the preparation process. Once the food is plated, the mastermind will accompany her or his dish into the dining area to introduce the food and chat with guests.

Sunday’s dinner will be the grand finale, where all 23 cooks will partner up to produce an 11-course meal. Every night is sure to entertain foodies, but at this particular event the menu is as much, if not more, about the creators.

“Frankly, what we kind of say is that it’s the only event that’s for the chefs. In other words it’s not really for the guests, and a byproduct of it is that the guests have a great experience,” says Smith.

Indie Chefs Week offers a blank canvas for culinary artists who are often constrained to create within the confines of a standing menu, or who lack the time or money to spend a few days playing with food outside of their home base kitchen. The money generated by ticket sales goes to financing the cost of chefs’ transportation, housing and supplies that make food extravaganzas accessible.

Elliott asks participants to bring only their passion.

“I wanna see what really lights your fire,” he says. “What really lights a [fire] in your ass. What do you really love to cook?”

Campari-grapefruit granita with orange blossom namelaka is Bartolome’s answer to Elliott’s call. This will be her second time at Indie Chefs Week. Friday night she will lead ten other chefs throughout the process of assembling her fruit-forward dessert.

Bartolome describes the convivial vibe at Indie Chefs Week as “kind of like summer camp” where participants enjoy a few days hanging out with likeminded people while learning a thing or two in the meanwhile. “First and foremost, it’s just — it’s really fun,” she says.

With ten years of experience in the industry, the 32-year-old says she’s excited to share her creations with new people in such a novel space. “Being able to express myself outside of the restaurant and to a wider audience is really cool. [It’s] really a great opportunity.”

Like many others asked to Indie Chefs Week, Bartolome received an invite from [Indie Chefs Week] after they saw her work on Instagram. It came as a bit of a surprise to someone who spends more time curating her menus than her social media profiles.

Sporting big glasses and an earnest expression, she explains, “I don’t put myself out there as my own personal brand. I just make my food… and that’s an extension of myself.”

Yet it was through social media that Elliott got the idea to start Indie Chefs Week almost five years ago. Talented chefs from across the country kept popping up on his Twitter feed but he noticed their names missing from the rosters of prominent food festivals or articles in glossy magazines. He asked himself, “How are there not other voices?”

Tired of what he described as “the same cast of characters,” Elliott decided to host a jubilee celebrating and showcasing the work of underrepresented professionals. “The whole point is to shine a light on people who don’t have a PR rep or who isn’t a quote unquote celebrity chef,” says co-organizer Smith.

Indie Chefs Week debuted in 2013, hitting the food world with a counterculture event that shattered the homogeneous representation of a heterogeneous industry. Whereas most food and wine festivals are dominated by white men, women chefs make up 35 percent of the upcoming Indie Chefs Week roster. By contrast, fewer than a quarter of the scheduled chefs for the 2018 Food & Wine Classic are women, and a scant 12 percent of chefs on the docket for the 2018 Austin Food and Wine Festival are women.

Elliott says he makes a conscious effort to create a space for underrepresented chefs, but he avoids using “click-baity” terms like inclusive to describe his motives. “The word inclusivity is like — I’m black and Puerto Rican so I have no clue what that even means. I just want to have the best chefs possible. I want to have women and minorities represented.”

Both Elliott and Smith stress that Indie Chefs Week is about building community: It is a collaboration, not a competition. “One of the kind of requirements is to have a super laid back attitude and make sure you kind of check your ego at the door,” says Smith of the expectations for participants.

That environment is what makes Indie Chefs Week such a lively experience for chefs and guests. “The excitement and positivity — that chill vibe from the kitchen plays over into the rest of the atmosphere,” Bartolome explains, and that makes for an evening that is intimate and entertaining.

The fruits of the collaborative labor reach far beyond the walls of the Indie Chefs Week kitchen or dining room. Chefs build relationships that stand to benefit other industry professionals and diners across the country. Guests at Brenner Pass in Richmond, VA got a taste of Cincinnati and San Francisco after Executive Chef Brittanny Anderson attended Indie Chefs Week in May 2017, when it was hosted in New York City. There the Virginian met Ryan Santos, of Please in Ohio, and Yoni Levy, of Outerlands in California, who have since come to cook with her in Richmond.

Anderson says the connections she made gave both her guests and her cooks the chance to try new things without having to travel. “It’s just an opportunity we don’t get that often,” she says.

Those who attend Indie Chefs Week this weekend will have the chance to chow down on some of Anderson’s creations, as well as those from Bartolome and a host of other kitchen magicians. Tickets are available online and wine is included.

Tickets for our next event in New Orleans March 22-25 available here.

Women of Indie Chefs Week Houston

savory course

Jillian Bartolome

Apple Stoops