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Before he became the chef at the Conference & Event Center Niagara Falls, Jason LaMotte grew up in New Orleans, where he learned to love gumbo and Southern-style barbecue. Tonight, LaMotte's putting his barbecue chops to work on a dinner to benefit the Niagara Falls Blues Festival, set for September.

The menu will include barbecued pulled pork; macaroni and cheese with maque choux, or corn relish, with Velveeta and Gruyere; baked beans; braised collard, mustard and turnip greens with pork knuckles and candied red onions; Cajun coleslaw; and bacon and cheese cornbread.

Dinner is from 6:30 to 9 tonight in the conference center (101 Old Falls St., Niagara Falls). Tickets are $30 at the door. Live blues music is part of the evening, and it's $10 for music only after 9 p.m.

“Barbecue is one of my specialties, and one of my passions,” said LaMotte.

The kitchen's high-tech combination ovens do a terrific job on roasting pork shoulders “low and slow” for pulled pork. “I cook it for about 30 hours at 220 degrees,” until the meat is sweet, LaMotte said. The high-tech ovens can tell, via a temperature probe, when the meat's done, and they shut off automatically. LaMotte admits he'll miss some parts of traditional barbecuing, but not the overnight cooks.

“I'm an old man,” he said. “I need my sleep.”

– Andrew Z. Galarneau