Prize Fest helping revitalize struggling food industry

Food Prize helps local restaurants during pandemic.
Food Prize helps local restaurants during pandemic.(Glow Alchemy)
Updated: Sep. 16, 2020 at 1:02 PM CDT
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SHREVEPORT, La. (KSLA) — Chefs and restaurants throughout the country have been working to find ways to save their businesses during the unforgiving coronavirus pandemic, which hit the food industry especially hard.

That’s why when Gregory Kellenberg sat down with his team at Prize Fest to figure out a game plan for the 2020 festival, he knew he had to do something for local restaurants that are struggling to survive. The team came up with a plan to incorporate six local businesses in this year’s Food Prize — but voters have to eat specialty dishes from at least three competing chefs in order for their vote to count.

Jessica Comegys owns Glow Alchemy Kitchen, a full-service health food café she opened along Shreveport’s popular Pierremont Road a mere three months before COVID-19 hit.

“It’s been a roller coaster,” Comegys said. “Anything that you could’ve imagined has happened. We were extremely busy. We gained momentum and then this unexpected pandemic happened. We reopened in Phase II in early June, and it has been a slow climb.”

Comegys' café has been able to continue dishing out its unique lunches through the help of a revolutionary festival, which also was hit hard by the pandemic. Shreveport-Bossier City’s Prize Fest, which showcases the community’s vast film, fashion, music and food scenes, went totally digital this year due to COVID-19.

The festival evolved to keep people involved in a floundering restaurant industry. Restaurant doors were closing. Wait staff and cooks were filing for unemployment. And many of the area’s favorite hot spots sat as empty reminders of life pre-pandemic.

Here’s how it works – voters can pick up a Prize Fest “Prizeport” at any of these six locations:

  • Glow Alchemy Kitchen
  • Fat Calf Brasserie
  • Ki Mexico
  • Abby Singer’s Bistro
  • The Noble Savage
  • Frank’s Louisiana Kitchen

Voters have to visit at least three of the six locations, try a specialty menu item, then have their “prizeport” punched before turning it in online to vote.

Voting will run through the end of Prize Fest, which begins Oct. 2.

“We’re overwhelmed with the gratitude for the care and the love that went into planning this because this is going to get people through our doors. Somebody that comes through my store has to go to three of the four of these other restaurants to be able to vote and they may have never even been there before.”

Well-known chef Josh Harmon said he was at the height of his career when COVID-19 hit.

Harmon admitted he likely will not bounce back 100 percent from the pandemic. “At the point when it happened, I was on the top tier. I was heading towards what I really wanted. So, for me, I probably won’t ever get to that stage again.”

Harmon has been working to save his restaurants and those around him. He will be a celebrity chef at this year’s Prize Fest, which lasts until Oct. 11.

You can click here to see a full schedule of virtual chef appearances.

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