Chef Frank Brigtsen's namesake eatery, Brigtsen's Restaurant, has lived in the heart of the Uptown Riverbend for 36 years. Opened in 1986, Brigtsen's has become a beloved neighborhood café serving contemporary Creole and Cajun cuisine, drawing diners from across the country.
Chef Brigtsen began his culinary journey while attending Louisiana State University in 1973. He moved on to apprentice under Chef Paul Prudhomme at Commander's Palace Restaurant in 1979. Chef Prudhomme appointed him to be the first Night Chef at K-Paul's Louisiana Kitchen just a year later, and eventually Chef Brigtsen worked his way to Executive Chef over his seven year tenure. Through Chef Prudhomme's guidance and mentorship, Chef Brigtsen was able to open his own place, Brigtsen's Restaurant. Chef Brigtsen was inducted into the LRA Hall of Fame in 2012. We caught up with Chef Brigtsen as he begins preparations for the Spring season.
LRA: What are you giving up for Lent and why?
Chef Frank Brigtsen: Every year for Lent I give up cottage cheese. (Sorry, it’s a running joke)!
LRA: If you're not working in the kitchen, what are your Easter traditions?
FR: We traditionally do Easter supper at home with Roast Leg of Lamb.
LRA: What is your favorite recipe to cook during the early Spring season?
Chef: Our favorite seasonal Spring dish is Crawfish Egg Rolls w/ Honey Chinese Mustard Sauce, served at Brigtsen’s.
LRA: Where is your favorite place to go when you're not working?
Chef: Our go-to spot is Sidecar Oyster Patio. We also love Le Chat Noir & Bywater American Bistro.
Find Brigtsen's online at @frankbrigtsen
Chef Susan Spicer has been in the culinary industry for over 30 years. This Women's History Month we honor her passion and dedication to the New Orleans culinary industry.
She is the Louisiana Restaurant Association Restaurateur of the year in 2004, the Association's most prestigious award. In 2018, Spicer was the Keynote Speaker for the Louisiana ProStart invitational. Her restaurants showcase her unique, European-inspired palette. Worldly flavors with New Orleans accents are her signature style.
LRA: What is your favorite recipe to cook during the early Spring season?
Chef Susan Spicer: Love asparagus and ramps, if I can get my hands on any.
Ramps are a wild onion plant native to forests of North America. The balance of garlic and onion flavors make this vegetable sought after by food lovers across the globe, they are rare and foraged like truffles. The wide green leaves and deep purple stem set them apart form your basic green onion. After the winter, they are the first vegetable to sprout from defrosting soil. They are known more commonly as leeks. Ramps are great for grilling and make a bright Spring side for your grilled meat of choice.
LRA: Where is your favorite place to go when you’re not working?
SS: We go to Jackson, Mississippi where my husband’s family is. They always get together on Easter.
Find Chef Susan Spicer online at @bayonanola.
Nancy Weinstock McDaniel is the Vice President of Latter Hospitality. The hospitality group owns The Bower, Birdie's and Tujague's Restaurant. Tujague's is the second oldest restaurant in New Orleans. Also known as the birthplace of brunch, Tujague's recently celebrated their 165th anniversary. Once the Sales & Marketing Coordinator, McDaniel is now the Vice President and runs day-to-day sales, communications and operations throughout all three restaurants. She is the right hand of CEO, Owner and Operator of Latter Hospitality, Mark Latter.
When The Bower opened in March 2020, it was just five days before the COVID-19 shutdown. McDaniel's role expanded tremendously from that moment. Latter Hospitality has since opened Birdy's and re-branded Claret into Bower Bar. McDaniel opens up to the LRA about her work life, and the female inspirations who have led her down the path to success.
LRA: Who are some of your female culinary heroes, and why?
Nancy McDaniel: I'll start with Nina Compton and Ella Brennan. Before I was in the industry, I learned about Nina Compton from one of my favorite TV shows Top Chef. Her ability to be calm, cool and collected amongst a wide range of personalities continues to impress me. Now, she has two of the most acclaimed restaurants in New Orleans. It’s inspiring how she combines her own background with local ingredients and traditional cuisine of the area.
Ella Brennan is a no-brainer. What she was able to accomplish as a restaurateur during her time is unthinkable. All females in our industry owe a special thanks to her for paving the way. My third culinary hero is a little less well-known. Alex Snodgrass, of The Defined Dish, is a recipe developer, cookbook author and social influencer. I admire her more personally as she went to my alma-mater, TCU. Over the past few years, her business has expanded greatly, and she has become more successful and well-known. Even with this success, she continues to be herself in the most genuine and down to earth way. She is passionate about creating nutritious and fulfilling meals at home for loved ones. It inspires me to do more than order take-out or sauté a chicken breast for dinner at home with my husband!
LRA: What is the best piece of advice that you've ever received?
NM: The best advice I've ever been given is about the importance of grit. There have been times in my life when my type-A personality has taken over, and I've gotten down on myself for not being perfect. Someone close to me explained that it is way more important to have grit than to be the smartest or the best at something. Having the ability to persist in something that you feel passionate about, and to persevere when you face obstacles is far more important. This advice has since stuck with me and was a huge part of what helped me personally in dealing with these past two years. We've all had reasons to want to give up or feel sorry for ourselves throughout the pandemic, but having grit gives us the ability to make it through the tough times and we are all better for it.
LRA: Who has been a female mentor?
NM: My number one mentor in life is my mom. As a full-time attorney, who is on the management committee of her law firm, and a full-time parent to four children, she is always there for everything. It amazes me how she has been able to be the most hands-on mother there is, while also running her law firm and practicing law full-time (among her other obligations and responsibilities in other volunteer positions). My siblings and I like to joke that she overcommits herself, but somehow manages to get it all done and show up for everything. This has taught me that you truly can have it all! There is no reason that women can't have successful careers and raise incredible families. I'm excited for my own future knowing that my mom will be there every step of the way.
LRA: Why is Women’s History Month important to you?
NM: I am lucky enough to live in a time where women run Fortune 500 companies. It's important for me to remember those who paved the way for my generation, and hope that I can one day inspire the next generation of female leaders.
It's funny - when I was in middle school, I always said that I wanted to own and operate my own restaurant. Little did I know that three years in to working for Latter Hospitality, I would be the Vice President and have ownership interests in three of our four concepts. I'm excited about what the future holds and look forward to continue growing with the company!
Eunice Career & Technical Education Center offers Dual Enrollment Opportunities
Two students of the Eunice Career & Technical Education Center (ECTEC) will be the first in the state of Louisiana to graduate high school with a Technical Diploma from the Southern Louisiana Community College (SLCC).
The ECTEC offers the ProStart culinary arts and management program designed to prepare students for the real working world of the restaurant and hospitality industries. The dual enrollment programs at the ECTEC, in partnership with the SLCC, are taught by qualified professionals. Students complete the program over three years and earn college credits through the SLCC to gain a technical degree while still in high school.
“The dual-enrollment nature of the program is a fantastic opportunity from the standpoint of earning college credits while still in high school,” said Erica Janice, ECTEC Facilitator. “But to do so at no cost gives them a tremendous advantage going forward.”
Dylan Fuselier and Baylie Guillory were among the first students to enroll in the program, and they have successfully completed all courses to receive their Technical Degree. They received all their training and education at ECTEC.
“I wanted to be an inventor when I was a little kid, but once I was introduced to cooking, I learned to be creative with that too,” said Fuselier. “The program at ECTEC taught me what I needed to know to get into the restaurant industry but also helped with my self-discipline and work ethic, so it is a well-rounded program.”
The students spend about half of their school day in the commercial kitchen at ECTEC, which has everything necessary to introduce them to typical restaurant industry standards.
“These students will have a real advantage over others as they leave high school,” said Summerlin. “Culinary schools reach out to us, asking for our students because they know they will receive individuals with an intimate knowledge of the restaurant industry.”
As they prepare to graduate, Fuselier and Guillory have their eyes set on their future. Fuselier has dreams to open his own restaurant, while Guillory is hoping to attend the Chef John Folse Culinary Institute at Nicholls State University.
“I definitely have a better future due to this program and all the opportunities it has presented me,” said Guillory.
Story and quotes from St. Landry Parish Economic Development.
Irish Pubs across the state ready to welcome patrons for St. Patrick’s Day celebrations
By Nicole Koster
There is plenty of green beer, luck and revelry to go around on St. Patrick’s Day, but here in New Orleans, and around the state of Louisiana, the celebrations are deeply rooted. The Irish have a historical role in the rich cultural fabric of Southeast Louisiana. When the Irish were fighting British rule, many of them left their homeland and found solace off the Mississippi River in New Orleans. The Irish Channel in New Orleans is rightly named after the Irishmen who worked on the Port and would walk to work from their cottages, many built from barges broken down for building materials. The Irish worked to start banks, built English-speaking churches and served in the military. It was the Irish who worked for only $1 a day to build the New Basin Canal. The Irish evolved into businessmen and professionals of all trades. Their contributions to the food, music and New Orleans spirit are visible every day, like through all the pubs who pride their brand on the spirit of the Irish. Find a place below to celebrate the luck of the Irish today!
Enoch's Irish Pub
Enoch's Irish Pub in Monroe is the place to be in Northern Louisiana, all year round, for Irish spirit. The Irish pub with Louisiana attitude opened on St. Patrick's Day in 1980. The business is still in the family and has become a premier music venue for musicians around the state.
Happy's Irish Pub
This neighborhood pub in Baton Rouge celebrates St. Patrick's Day all week, and all year long. Their happy hour the week of St. Patrick's Day lets revelers partake with 2-for-1 beers and double well drinks. On the 17th of every month, Happy's celebrates 'St. Practice Day' as a way to honor St. Patrick's Day year round. Among many specials, Patrons enjoy their signature green beer, Happy's Hooligan.
A New Orleans institution, Pat O'Brien's has been in business now for 89 years. The bar, which began as a speakeasy on St. Peter Street, bears a classic Irish name. They have a big St. Patrick's Day celebration each year where patrons enjoy sporting Pat O's Irish green bowling hats. You can enjoy festivities in the courtyard, or inside at the famous Piano Bar with dueling pianos.
There will be a St. Patrick's Day parade from the Downtown Irish Club walking through the Marigny, French Quarter and CBD tonight starting at 7 p.m.
By Nicole Koster
Just off the corner from the Orleans Parish Court House is Addis NOLA, an Ethiopian Kitchen celebrating authentic East African cuisine. Founded and owned by Dr. Biruk Alemayehu, she, her husband and son, Dr. Jamie Lobo and Prince Lobo, run the restaurant dedicated to connecting the New Orleans community to Ethiopian culture and cuisine.
Her son Prince mainly handles PR and communications for Addis NOLA, but also acts as a host, runs food and works where ever he is needed in the restaurant. He says while his mother was a student at Southern University of Baton Rouge in 2009, she enjoyed attending international events hosted by the University but it brought to light that Southeast Louisiana was lacking a proper eatery for recognizing her homeland. She would showcase some of her own Ethiopian recipes to share her heritage at the events. It was there she had the idea to open her own restaurant one day. Over the years of managing motherhood and work life, she finally made the dive into the food service industry, and scooped up a location at S. Broad and Tulane Avenue in 2019.
“This is essentially her love letter to New Orleans,” Prince said. “To have a place to showcase the flavors and food from her homeland of Ethiopia.”
Dr. Alemayehu is originally from a region near the Entoto Mountains. She grew up on a military base in Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa until she was 14, and then moved to be educated in the Czech Republic after political conflict broke out in her country. Her father, a former royal guard of the then Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie, passed away defending his country. She met her now husband, Jamie, there in the Czech Republic, who is from Angola. The couple traveled back to Angola after living in Portugal for some time, where Prince was then born. This rich rooted history of her family is the biggest inspiration for bringing Addis Ababa to New Orleans, thus Addis NOLA.
Prince and his parents are bridging the food culture of Ethiopia to the Southern hospitality of New Orleans. Though halfway across the globe from each other, there are a world of similarities between the two cultures.
“We understand New Orleans to be the culinary and hospitality capital of the nation, and I think the way people live in Ethiopia is directly aligned with that,” Prince said. “The shared aspects of how deep their culture is, and how flavorful the food is, and the overall spirit of the people, I think we are a great bridge between both of those cultures and people.”
Addis NOLA and their team of employees work as a well-oiled machine seven days a week to bring the Ethiopian dining culture to life for hungry guests. Upon walking through the doors, one is immersed in Ethiopian traditions. From the Tej honey wine, to the handwoven wicker mesobs, a breadbasket that is interchangeably used as a communal dining table as well as an injera bread storing utensil, to the traditional Ethiopian coffee ceremony, Addis NOLA is a heaping serving of Ethiopia in New Orleans. The coffee ceremony is very close to his heart, says Prince. Ethiopia is said to be the birthplace of coffee. Making the coffee all in the same moment is an important touch on their dining experience.
“This is a tradition that pays homage to the origins of coffee in the world, how culturally it has impacted the way of life in Ethiopia, and the people who live there,” Prince said. “Whenever we roast the coffee for the house that’s reiterating that essence of welcoming people into our home,” Prince said. “It blesses the spirits of the guests who come, essentially like a sage stick practice, like many people are familiar with.”
There is a strong sense of personal connection in Ethiopian dining, like using your hands with the injera flatbread to eat everything on your plate, shared with your family and friends. Addis NOLA offers a gluten-free injera bread, vegetarian options and meat for all palettes. The menu showcases traditional kitfo, sambusas (lentil, beef or collard green hand pies), tibs and wot, served alongside options like cooked lentils, collards and beets. There is also shrimp, and whole fried red snapper, Prince’s favorite dish. The fusion of traditional and modern flavors honors Ethiopia, and also the Gulf of Mexico and its abundance of fresh seafood.
“My mother holds down the traditional Ethiopian cuisine and I handle pushing more modern, local and sustainable recipes,” said Prince. “We are in New Orleans, so we have to use the gold that we have out here, so we take the Gulf seafood and use traditional Ethiopian cooking processes and incorporate other flavors from other regions of Ethiopia.”
Dr. Alemayehu juggles restaurant life, family life and work life seamlessly her son says. With a strong sense of humbleness and humility instilled in her from a young age, transitioning from professor to food entrepreneur was natural. She spent 12 years as a professor at SUNO, and currently Dr. Alemayehu works for Go Propeller , a non-profit supporting and growing entrepreneurs to tackle social and environmental disparities.
“She loves to harness her inner Oprah, she is very philanthropic in that way,” Prince said. “She harnesses that energy, even kind of that same elegance of Michelle Obama. I see a lot of resemblances between the both of their statures. She is in that class of woman.”
Above all else, Addis NOLA’s top priority is to engage New Orleans with ancient Ethiopian culture and to bring people together regardless of backgrounds, focusing on making a positive change. Prince is proactive in making positive changes in his community by constantly networking and learning from other food professionals in the region. He and his parents regularly patronize local restaurants, and carry a mission of unity for Addis NOLA. You will regularly see Prince pop-up on Facebook and Instagram supporting his industry friends at Froot Orleans (a local fruit parlor), Turkey and the Wolf, Queen Trini Lisa and even Glass Half Full, a local sustainability and glass recycling project from two Tulane University graduates. Here, he recycles all the glass bottles from the restaurant. Networking is key for the Addis NOLA family as Prince mentions their membership with the LRA plays a large role in supporting that factor.
"Especially since the pandemic, one of the most important things for us is to have that connectivity with other restaurant people, and the network of professionals," Prince said. "Just to make sure that you have some support at some degree, and the LRA is a great place for that. "
Dr. Biruk Alemayehu, Dr. Jamie Lobo and Prince all wear many hats working together at Addis NOLA, truly a family affair. Prince is focused on sharing their mission and doing whatever is needed to get through each day, spreading far and wide his mother’s passion for her homeland.
“I fit myself into wherever is necessary,” said Prince. “Everyone has specific roles, but mine is a little more open. Just to make sure everyone hears our story.”
By Wendy Waren
Yulia Zmyzhova Shamas emigrated to the United States 15 years ago from Ukraine—first to California, then followed her sister to New Orleans. Early in her arrival to the Crescent City, she applied for a server position at Bacco, a former concept of the Ralph Brennan Restaurant Group. Fast forward to present day, and Yulia is now a Manager at Ralph Brennan’s Red Fish Grill in the French Quarter.
As Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has unfolded on the world stage, she agreed to share her experience, “a nightmare,” and all the emotions, unrelenting love and concern for her beloved homeland, family and people.
“My life has been on hold since February 24 when the invasion began,” Yulia explained. “At first it was shock and disbelief. I found myself less attentive to my child and work, and I was simply going through the motions in those first days.”
Yulia’s parents, particularly her father, who at 63 has vivid memories of U.S.S.R. control of his country is adamant about staying. Although her family is located on the Western side of the country near Poland, where nearly a million Ukrainians have fled thus far, she said her father “is ready to pick up a weapon and defend his country.”
Her sister, brother-in-law and three-year-old niece are also of great concern. She was able to convince her sister to leave with her child for Germany. Her brother-in-law is required to stay and fight when the time comes.
“My screen time has been upwards of 10 hours a day since this started, just reading news. Mardi Gras was particularly challenging for Yulia. “I unfortunately could not relate and enjoy the celebration while my people were simultaneously being bombed and killed,” she said. “I felt so helpless.”
What is one of your fondest memories from while in the Ukraine?
We cherish our religious freedom, especially holidays like Christmas and Easter. We celebrate by going to church, wearing our Ukrainian national costumes and making Paska bread—a tradition passed down from grandmother to mother, and mother to daughter. It’s a lot like gumbo because every family has their own recipe. We paint eggs and wear our best clothes beginning Good Friday through Easter Sunday.
What do you most celebrate about being Ukrainian?
It’s the connections we have with each other… it’s warm, welcoming and supportive. For example, I was there in January and had a minor medical issue. My father called a doctor who was a friend of his, and I was able to see him the next day, with no appointment and at no charge. This type of kindness is common among my people. Most times you don’t even have to ask.
What do you want people to know about what’s happening in your homeland?
My people are strong, and they are fighters. I don’t want Russia to take our freedom of speech or religion away, or our decision to join the European Union. Right now, Russia is destroying my country and attempting to steal the future of my parents, my sister, my niece…and our entire nation.
Can you recall an influential woman who mentored or shaped you into the strong woman and mother you are today? When I was at university, I had to write a paper explaining why I deserved one of two scholarships available to study in Germany. I was stalled and losing confidence until an instructor gave me inspiring pep talk and told me I was underestimating myself and to take some time before giving it another try. I wrote the essay and ultimately won one of the scholarships. I went to study in Western Germany and traveled to Luxemburg, Belgium and the Netherlands, paid in full, and had the time of my life. I still recall that instructor as being someone who was fair, compassionate, recognized my successes and encouraged me.
In 2016, Yulia was nominated for the National Restaurant Association’s Faces of Diversity Award. She has also been featured in the Louisiana Restaurant Association’s magazine and as spokeswoman for women in the New Orleans hospitality industry by the city’s tourism promotion and marketing organization—New Orleans & Co.
“Even though I have American citizenship, I am first a Ukrainian,” Yulia said. “I’m so proud of my nation and grateful to the Ukrainian soldiers who are standing up for our freedom and democracy. The American government has made it easier for Ukrainian family members of U.S. citizens to get a visa and take refuge out of harm’s way. I’m grateful for that, too.”
Yulia is married to Brian Shamas and together they have a daughter named Leila.
The Louisiana Restaurant Association (LRA) was established in 1946 to advocate on behalf of the state’s foodservice and hospitality industries.