Wednesday, July 7, 2010
Written by The Independent Staff

20100707-finds-0101GRAIN OF TRUTH
Rice is life in Acadia Parish, and no one is more serious about it than the cooks who compete in the annual Chef de Riz (Rice Chef) competition in Crowley. A new documentary of the same name lifts the lid on this passionate pastime. The film follows ex-pat Brandi Martin, who grew up in Acadia Parish but now lives in Nashville, as she prepares four rice dishes and transports them from her Tennessee kitchen to Crowley for the 72nd Annual International Rice Festival’s Chef de Riz competition. Scores of contestants converge on the festival each year to compete for the coveted title. The effervescent Martin, bubbling over with cocky Cajun confidence, explains during preparations that she was “born Chef de Riz.” The dishes are judged in four categories — meat, seafood, salad or side, and dessert. Martin’s stuffed shrimp wins the seafood category, putting her in the running for Chef de Riz. The competition includes interviews with the judges during which contestants must not only explain their dish, but demonstrate a knowledge of the rice industry. It is, after all, about the rice. Martin, alas, doesn’t win Chef de Riz and, on a crisp fall afternoon that is also her 30th birthday, she takes it hard. “It’s never gonna be OK that I didn’t win,” she explains, “because I’m always going to be wondering, what’s wrong with me?” The latest production of ten18 Films, Chef de Riz was written and directed by Jeremy Campbell, an EMMY-nominated journalist and filmmaker and former reporter and weekend anchor at KLFY TV-10. The 24-minute documentary is streaming online at A DVD can be purchased at the website for $15. — Walter Pierce

If you like your country music with more old school tumbleweed and Texas twang than fast-burning plastic of the modern age, then you should pick up Yvette Landry’s new solo CD Should Have Known. Like some Cajun queen bee from another era, the Bonsoir, Catin bassist picks up her acoustic guitar to belt out 16 original tunes that trace the arc of romance from holding hands to one night stands to making long term plans. Filled with bitter-sweet tales of love lost, found, and turned around, it’ll have you jerking the tears out of your eyeballs and crying in your beer. Co-produced by Joel Savoy and Landry, the CD plays like a woman’s honky tonk companion piece/travel guide through the back roads of the heart with upswings through the highs (“Blue Moon Girl”) and pensive meditations on the lows (“Where Memories are Gold”). — Dege Legg

A paean to the power of language and its transformational effect on the inner life, Wendi Romero’s Pilgrimage to Self: Leaving, Walking, Returning is a journey of spare, often deeply personal poems that pulse simultaneously with both a deft touch and metaphysical heft. As the title implies, Pilgrimage is a poetic triptych that explores leaving and returning to the familiar — people, places, emotions and, most important, the spiritual self. Romero learned to craft her stanzas at McNeese State University under the guiding hand of professor, poet, critic and photography historian John Wood, whose simple question, “Why aren’t you writing?” rekindled Romero’s poetic fire more than a quarter century after she left the university for a career in medicine. The chance encounter with her former mentor opened the creative spigot; Romero has poured out poetry and prose — hundreds of poems and short stories — since. Pilgrimage to Self ($9.99 e-book, $15.99 paperback, $24.99 hardback; available at is the first collection of her work, a worthy effort from an inspired artist. Meet the poet, buy the book and hear a reading from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 7, at the Erath Public Library. — WP

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