Baton Rouge restaurateur Michael Boudreaux reflects on personal encounters which shaped his career
Michael Boudreaux stands outside of his newest concept SoLou on Perkins Road, as the 2022 LRA Chair. Photo credit by Frank Aymami.
Michael Boudreaux has spent the last 30 years honing his restaurant business acumen. His career in the industry began at Outback Steakhouse where he was the Bloomin’ Onion guy” while working his way through the management trainee program and later becoming manager at the Marrero location on the Westbank of New Orleans in 1997.
He attributes mentorship as the key to his personal and professional development. When leaving Outback, he had an exit interview at a local donut shop with Bruce Attinger, formerly of Outback and currently with Walk-On’s (and past LRA Chair), that lasted three and a half hours. Attinger challenged and inspired him in a way he still fondly recalls to this day.
“Bruce saw something in the young me, and that talk was really the springboard for what followed,” said Boudreaux. “I still hold him in the highest regard and value his wisdom and guidance.”
His desire to return to his hometown of Baton Rouge to finish his degree at Louisiana State University landed him at Juban’s Restaurant in their catering division managing off-site events. It was there he first met his now wife, Laura Juban, daughter of then partners Ken and Carroll Juban.
In 2000, Juban’s Restaurant underwent a renovation, vastly expanding its footprint from 5,000 to 16,000 square feet, with nine private rooms and a maximum seated capacity of 450. Boudreaux would assume the general manager role, soon followed by that of husband and son-in-law.
In 2008, Boudreaux bought the Silver Spoon, a lunch spot on Jefferson Highway. Two years later, he took on two partners, Jeff Conaway and Chef Nathan Gresham, and transformed the space into the now popular Beausoleil Restaurant and Bar, featuring Louisiana farm to table cuisine. Over the following years, the group doubled in size, and in 2015 purchased Christina’s, a diner in downtown Baton Rouge. Further expansion with his wife and in-laws included Adrian’s on the opposite side of town.
Like many of his colleagues, the pandemic forced Boudreaux and his family and partners to evaluate and adjust the circumstances for each property. They opted to close Christina’s since most downtown Baton Rouge employees transitioned to remote work. Admittedly, Adrian’s suffered from an identity crisis from the start, and with its issues further compounded by the onslaught of pandemic woes, was forced to close as well. Ironically, the pandemic did present an opportunity for a new venture. In the fall of 2020, Boudreaux teamed up with LRA past Chairman Peter Sclafani and Kiva Guidroz of Making Raving Fans Hospitality Group, whom he knew through the LRA and restaurant community for years. Because of the uncertainty in the market, Juban’s was put on hold, but the closure did make way for the three to turn their attention towards a new concept - SoLou Patio Restaurant Bar. The restaurant offers southern comfort food with a twist in a posh indoor/outdoor atmosphere complete with sprawling live oak trees and a signature Instagramable wall.
“Recently, I was standing at the bar next to Michael, and as I looked around I couldn’t help but notice he and I were the oldest ones in the restaurant,” laughed Sclafani. “There was a group of young people dancing on the patio, and the vibe was just electric. I asked Michael, ‘How did we come up with something this good?’”
With inspired dishes like crawfish beignets, shrimp corndogs, fried cauliflower tossed in a Thai chili sauce, a Cajun charcuterie board and so much more, the menu is as dynamic as the cocktail list. Notables include a frozen mint julep and the Strawberry Hill, concocted with Ponchatoula strawberry infused gin.
Occupying the former Rum House location on Perkins Road, the restaurant is situated just a stone’s throw away from Juban’s, which is currently undergoing a renovation and plans to reopen on April Fool’s Day (no, it’s no prank). With Juban’s long-standing fine dining reputation in the Capitol City, this highly anticipated revitalization will culminate in a refreshed menu while maintaining some notable staples including the infamous Halleluiah crab. The restaurant will operate under a new overarching theme, “company loves history.” “With this renovation, we’re reimagining what fine dining is,” said Boudreaux.
This year, Boudreaux will serve as Chair of the LRA, the association’s most important leadership position. His involvement with the association began back in 2004, when he volunteered to accompany Chef Terry McDonner to mentor three Louisiana ProStart classes in the Baton Rouge area. Boudreaux attributes that experience as the catalyst for his continued volunteer service to the association and joined the Greater Baton Rouge Chapter Board and later volunteered to chair its annual golf tournament.
After those ProStart encounters, I was hooked. To see high school juniors and seniors interested in what Chef Terry, and even young Mike Boudreaux, had to share, was so cool.
Under Boudreaux’s leadership, the golf tournament fundraiser tripled its contribution to the LRA Education Foundation that year. In 2021, the tournament yielded a whopping $20,000 for the charitable arm of the LRA.
In 2008, he joined the LRA State Board of Directors and went on to become the GBR Chapter President in 2010. Since, he’s served as chair for chapter leadership, showcase, communications and advocacy/PAC committees. In 2017, he was elected as the LRA At Large Member on the Executive Committee and has served as the Secretary, Treasurer, and Vice Chair, leading to this year as chair.
“I’ve known Michael for over 20 years, first as a competitor and later as a colleague on our LRA Board,” said LRA President & CEO Stan Harris. “Early in my tenure, our leaders had their eye on him for future leadership and noted his friendly personality and willingness to get things done. We are fortunate to have him as our 2022 State Chair and to quote LRA past Chair Peter Sclafani, ‘we want him to be Michael Boudreaux!’”
“Michael has incredible work ethic and interpersonal skills. Whether he was waiting tables and interacting with the guests or talking with the kitchen staff, he’s just a really friendly person,” said Attinger.