There is nothing truer in Louisiana than the idea of connecting over food, and restaurants are the places where we find those connections, old and new. The LRA is excited to kick-off summer and bring back Restaurant Week New Orleans for the 12th year, continuing the celebration of the hospitality industry. The hard work, passion and dedication shown by chefs, and every service industry role in-between, especially through this pandemic, is why people from across the globe come to New Orleans for Southern hospitality and world-class cuisine.
The LRA’s mission is to preserve our restaurants, to give world-renowned chefs a sanctuary where they can create, and share their passion for food with the community. New Orleans is home the best Chefs in the industry, and their businesses are the backbone of the local economy. They play a large role in the preservation of New Orleans and their menus pay homage to where it all began—the Mississippi River. Meet three Chefs whose passion for New Orleans lie center of plate.
Chef Frank Brigtsen
Chef Frank Brigtsen of Brigtsen’s Restaurant has been a member of the LRA for over 30 years, and was the inducted by the board into the LRA Hall of Fame in 2012. His strong commitment to the New Orleans restaurant industry and food culture comes from his mentor Chef Paul Prudhomme.
Chef Paul Prudhomme, the Opelousas native became the first American chef at Commander’s Palace in 1975, after Ella Brennan hired him to take over the restaurant she and her siblings had just purchased. In 1983, the LRA named Chef Prudhomme Restaurateur of the Year. It was at Commander’s Palace that Chef Prudhomme hired Chef Brigtsen and gave him his first real restaurant job.
“I’m the luckiest guy in the world,” Chef Brigtsen said. “To be a Chef in America’s greatest food city, and contribute to its evolving culture, has been a distinct privilege. I am deeply grateful.”
This year, Chef Brigtsen’s Restaurant Week menu goes vegetarian. The 4-course menu has similar flavor profiles of Louisiana’s Creole and Cajun dishes, but takes a different approach by giving diners vegetarian and gluten free options. You’ll find a classic stuffed mirliton, but instead, stuffed with hearty roasted cauliflower and eggplant.
Chef John Folse
You may know him for his cooking show “Taste of Louisiana” that aired on PBS in the 90s, or you know him for his hit restaurant Laffite’s Landing in Donaldsonville. Chef John Folse is internationally known as the keeper of authentic Louisiana Creole & Cajun cuisines and cultures. Chefs in today’s top restaurants most likely studied culinary arts at Chef John Folse’s Culinary Institute in Thibodaux, at Nicholls State University.
The St. James Parish native has a love for Louisiana rooted like a Cypress tree. He has been awarded numerous accolades from publications across the globe. In the late eighties, Chef Folse was responsible for introducing Louisiana’s indigenous cuisine to Japan, Beijing, Hong Kong and Paris. His high-end eatery Restaurant R’evolution quickly became the premier fine dinging establishment in New Orleans since opening in 2012. Collaborating with Chef Rick Tramanto, the pair the chefs have created a place where Creole & Cajun cuisines collide to tell the story of the all nations which influenced our city’s culinary history.
Chef de Cuisine at Restaurant R’evolution, inside the Royal Sonesta Hotel, is Chef Samuel Peery. His Restaurant Week menu offers a broad selection of what makes Restaurant R'evolution unique, giving diners plenty of options to be immersed in modern, imaginative reinterpretations of classic Cajun & Creole cuisines.
“We’ve included some of the refined interpretations of Louisiana classics that we’re known for, such as our Louisiana Turtle Soup and our Wild Boar Tagliatelle and also added some new items we’re really excited about, like our Gulf Shrimp Gazpacho appetizer and our Gulf Fish entrée with Louisiana corn, chicory greens, shishito pepper and Choupique butter.”
The short rib boudin, which is not typically served at Restaurant R'evolution, is a unique appetizer created out of pure spark. Chef Peery and his team reimagined the traditional Cajun sausage stuffed with a mixture of pork and rice when they had a family dine-in who did not eat pork. It is a great starter to any of the entrees being offered for Restaurant Week.
“This inspired us to create a pork-free boudin using beef short rib, chicken, rice and a wonderful blend of spices that honor classic Louisiana boudin flavors while adding a special Restaurant R’evolution flair,” said Chef Peery. “It’s definitely a new favorite dish and one that I encourage everyone to try.”
Find your “cure for the summer heat,” as Chef Peery puts it, with their Gulf Shrimp Gazpacho. “The Sun Gold tomatoes give the Gazpacho a wonderful rich hue and it’s finished with a sherry vinegar that we’ve been barrel aging in the restaurant for two years.”
Finish your dinner with the choice of a Southern Peach Semifreddo or Ice Cream Stuffed Éclair. Chef Peery loves both options, but encourages diners to try the new Southern Peach Semifreddo dessert.
“I equate this to a traditional drunken rum cake but with the added flavors of peach, sweet tea and raspberry,” said Chef Peery. “It’s the perfect summer indulgence.”
Chef Brian Landry
Chef Brian Landry of Jack Rose Restaurant, inside the historic Pontchartrain Hotel, is excited for the week of celebration when restaurants are showcasing everything that is uniquely special to their restaurant. The New Orleans native grew up fishing with his family, and has a passion for seafood and Creole cuisine as deep as the Mississippi River.
“It is such a part of our culture,” said Chef Landry. “Creole cuisine is a phenomenal regional cuisine that pulls from the best of cultures. We have over 1,400 restaurants in our city, who all contribute to that cuisine, so it is ever evolving. We’re always celebrating in New Orleans, always wondering where that next meal is going to be and it's just part of the fabric of the city.”
Jack Rose’s 3-course Restaurant Week dinner starts with roasted tomatoes and pistou, and finishes with a summer pavlova packed with fresh berries, both to compliment a petit fillet entrée topped with fresh Louisiana crabmeat. For six years, that passion served the New Orleans community at the historic Galatoire's Restaurant where he was Executive Chef from 2005-2011. He opened Borgne in 2012, and after making a name for himself there, he started a relationship with QED Hospitality, which houses Jack Rose.
“There is nowhere else but New Orleans to experience the fusion of Cajun and Creole cuisine,” Chef Landry says, “and Restaurant Week is the time to experience it all.”
The Bower in the Lower Garden District has been offering casual cheese plates, elegant three-course dinners and everything in between since March of 2020. Executive Chef Marcus Woodham helms the kitchen of the Latter Hospitality eatery, and makes fresh produce the star of his dishes, sourced from the local Sugar Roots Farm.
Chef Woodham, a native of Bayou Goula, just south of Baton Rouge, has worked in some of the most notable New Orleans kitchens--Luke, Restaurant Patois and Tivoli & Lee. He began his career with Latter Hospitality in 2016 when he took the position of Executive Chef at Tujague's Restaurant. As the hospitality group grew, so did his role within their restaurants. He assumed the same position with The Bower upon their opening.
His Restaurant Week menu gives diners opportunities to indulge in summer inspired dishes, like baby back ribs drenched in watermelon barbeque sauce, and a choice between a peach handpie or gelato of the day for desert.
The Myrtles Plantation in St. Francisville is commonly known as the ‘most haunted house in America,’ but it’s beginning to be known for a completely different reason. Thoughtfully created seasonal dishes are served from the 10-foot wide wood fired hearth at Restaurant 1796. Named for the year The Myrtles was built, the farm-to-table restaurant is what rose from the ashes when the original restaurant on the property set fire in 2017.
Property owner Morgan Moss took over leadership from his parents after the fire. His parents bought The Myrtles Plantation in 1992. When he was 12 years old, he began a career racing motocross and by the time he was 16, he had turned bonafied professional, racing for Grand National Cross Country. It was originally a fire in the gift shop in 2013, however, that had him race home with helping hands.
“When I came home to help with the reconstruction of the gift shop, that kind of opened itself to an opportunity to manage the property,” Moss said.
Fire struck again in 2017, and the family was left wondering what was next for the food & beverage component of their paranormal attraction. Moss knew he wanted to change the direction of The Myrtles Plantation’s branding, and offer something unique to visitors, but also to the locals of West Feliciana Parish.
“After we were able to recover from that, we shifted our focus to building a bigger, better restaurant that would be hitting in another weight class,” Moss said.
The result was Restaurant 1796. The concept is centered around the original way of home cooking used in the 18th century. While traveling across the country for his motocross career, Moss was exposed to lot of different restaurants and cuisines.
“It was always something I was fascinated by, just food and people’s different approaches to preparing it,” said Moss. “We were trying to come up with a concept that was fun and modern, not another cookie cutter restaurant. We found ourselves really fascinated by woodfire cooking, and felt like it was a really modern and unique approach, but it also has a huge tie to the history of the property.”
In the year of 1796, cooking meals was solely done over the hearth of one’s fireplace, and restaurants were an up-and-coming concept. Though there are many ghost stories surrounding the original owners of the property, there is no doubt meals there were prepared over an open flame. Moss works together with Executive Chef Daniel Dreher to put forth a memorable dining experience. He gives the culinary talent his full support, and control over the menu.
Chef Dreher, a graduate of Chef John Folse Culinary Institute, has a team of chefs he trains to respect the flame. The fire is what cooks these stand-out dishes, but it can be tough to work with. This challenge is what drew him to work at Restaurant 1796.
“It was something totally different from what I have done in the past. I have worked in numerous kitchens over the years from country clubs, hotels to fine dining,” said Dreher. “So, to have the experience of venturing out with a new technique of cooking was very appealing to me.”
The technique has been growing for some time across the country. Returning to the old way of cooking has become a new modern approach for chefs. Restaurants like The Dabney in Washington D.C., Ox in Portland and King + Duke in Atlanta all use the open flame. Chef Dreher is picking up on the trend, while still cooking with strong ties to Louisiana’s Cajun and Creole history.
The seasonal menu changes every three months, with its biggest changes in the Spring and Fall. Chef Dreher’s inspiration comes from his mentorship with Chef Bryan Carr, and work done under previous Restaurant 1796 chef, Chef Brian Lewis. As St. Francisville natives, both Moss and Chef Dreher love working in their hometown, giving locals something to be excited about. They themselves get excited about receiving local support they have always craved.
“We get a lot more local engagement on the property now than we ever have, and that’s rewarding to see,” Moss said.
Moss wants to keep the ghosts around (not like they’re going anywhere), because that is a large part of the bread & breakfast’s DNA. Instead, the plan is to move toward creating a boutique hotel experience, giving people a different reason to visit The Myrtles Plantation.
“What we’re really on a mission to do is diversify why people are coming onto the property,” Moss said. “It’s more than people expect for little old St. Francisville. They are genuinely impressed by the space, its appearance, concept and what we do here.”
All photos used in this story courtesy of Restaurant 1796.
The Louisiana Restaurant Association (LRA) was established in 1946 to advocate on behalf of the state’s foodservice and hospitality industries.