Beignet Festival returned to the City Park Festival Grounds last weekend after a two-year COVID-19 hiatus for plenty of fun, sun and sugary (and savory) beignets. The year 2022 has become a year of “backs,” with plenty of festivals returning back to the public after significant time away. This means our LRA members are also back enjoying the benefits of serving the masses, and being philanthropic in their community. Festival organizers are grateful for the many restaurants and food vendors who signed up to support Autism Awareness.
“Bringing back Beignet Fest has been a labor of love and dedication to our cause,” said Sherwood Collins, Founder and Executive Director of the Beignet Festival Foundation. “While we never stopped working on our mission to support children on the autism spectrum, we’re thrilled to return our marque event with a fun new look, new major sponsors, and of course, tons of great beignets.”
This year, the festival had an official coffee sponsor by PJ’s Coffee. Leslie Munson, the Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer for Ballard Brands, says supporting the Beignet Festival Foundation was easy to do.
“We are always looking for great ways to feature and integrate our brand and our products into the communities we serve,” said Munson, “outside the four walls of our cafes.”
Since its inception in 1978, the local New Orleans coffee brand has seen rapid growth throughout the region and is now a franchised company. The partnership fit just right since PJ’s Coffee has started serving beignets at their coffee shops.
“Serving as a sponsor of the Beignet Festival is a wonderful opportunity for PJ’s Coffee to serve our delicious hand-crafted and small batch roasted coffee as well as our new line of beignets,” Munson said.
The deep-fried pastries have become an instant hit with PJ’s Coffee franchisees across the southeast region, many seeing strong profit margins in their café’s, along with increased customer loyalty. In support of the Beignet Festival Foundation, Munson says the cause is close to the brand’s heart and philanthropy is a large part of their brand DNA. PJ’s Coffee has always been a proud supporter of the LRA Education Foundation and culinary education.
“Our beignets have quickly become a customer favorite, and, contributing to meaningful purposes and special causes within our community that bring people together is what PJ’s Coffee is all about,” said Munson. “We love the fact that the Beignet Festival benefits the worthy cause of bringing attention to autism awareness and that they in turn support various programs for children with developmental delays.”
PJ’s Coffee served long lines of hungry customers all day with their hot and ice coffee, and fresh beignets in traditional, pumpkin spice and chocolate Bavarian crème filled. Each year the Beignet Festival Foundation makes grants to programs which serve special needs children, Autism Spectrum Disorder being the most common form of developmental delays in children.
Café Beignet returned to the festival grounds this year to bring back their traditional beignets. The locally owned and operated French Quarter café has served authentic New Orleans beignets and café au lait since 1990. It won People’s Choice Award for Best Traditional Beignet in 2017. Hand rolling the dough on-site makes for an extra special touch says Café Beignet Regional Manager Clinton Peralta.
“People like our traditional beignets because they are always served fresh, hot, and cooked to order with a crispy outside and a soft, sweet center,” said Peralta. “No machinery is used and customers will be able to see the process first hand at the festival.”
Serving the community is more than serving them food says Peralta. Café Beignet has been with the Beignet Festival from the beginning because special needs children should have their own time to shine, and one thing they all love is the sweet and sugary beignet.
“As a family-oriented restaurant, we believe in supporting one another both professionally and personally,” Peralta said. “These kids deserve the same encouragement from their community. We’re honored to help them on their journey to success.”
The Delgado Culinary & Hospitality Management Program returned for the cause by serving King Cake style beignets this year. Students of the hospitality program sold out of their beignets right at lunch time, and made them fresh on their campus just blocks away, shuttling them back to please the hungry crowds. The festival gave the students a hands-on experience of foodservice at festivals and how to act quick on their feet.