Chef John Besh, New Orleans, Louisiana, My New Orleans: The Cookbook, The American Sector, August, Besh Steak, Domenica, La Provence, Luke, Restaurant Recommendations, Vietnamese Restaurants, Local, NOLA, Katrina, Post-Katrina, Traditional, Poster Boy, Pho, Authentic Restaurants




When New Orleans was struggling to get back on its feet after Katrina, John Besh played the role of the nurturer, serving red beans and rice to refugees and emergency workers out of flat–bottom boats. That’s what good chefs do, they feed the soul.

John Besh has all the right credentials for feeding the stomach: a degree from the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY, honors from top culinary magazines, a James Beard Foundation award, lots of national TV appearances. But it’s his own backyard, the city of New Orleans, that gets to his heart.

He is the soft-spoken, genteel hometown boy, who left New Orleans to serve his country as a Marine in Desert Storm, and returned with the keen discipline to ultimately own six restaurants, raise four boys, hunt, fish, and breed pigs.

John Besh recently released his first cookbook, which is his ode to the city that calls him their favorite son. The book is called My New Orleans: The Cookbook.


Q & A

Q. When you opened in 2001, your were thought to be a rebel, combining new techniques and ingredients with more classic ones. Now you've garnered much critical acclaim, opened several new restaurants, and have been featured as the face of Louisiana tourism, what factors played in the shift from that initial perception?

A. For years our food scene in NOLA has been in constant evolution. Each generation of New Orleanian has had its chefs and restauranteurs and now it's my turn, and I'm truly honored for that. With each chef being plastered up there as the ‘face’ of the food scene, it's easy to get caught up in thinking it's all about ‘me,’ when in fact it's not that at all. It's all about New Orleans and now it's up to me to make sure I impact it in a very positive manner and do what I can to see that we perpetuate the good. Eventually another chef will rise up and represent us well using what the great chefs of New Orleans have passed on to us.

Over the years I've come to realize the importance of being a good steward of this very great tradition, while spreading the word of its greatness and uniqueness to all who will listen.

Q. What are the most significant culinary changes in New Orleans, post-Katrina?

A. The most significant culinary changes are more foods, and more focused on our locale, which has impacted our local farmers, foragers and fishermen. There are small farmers’ markets and dynamic urban farms popping up everywhere around the city, and 20 years ago it was unheard


Q. Did the changes after Katrina encourage chefs to take risks with their menus or have menus remained more traditional?

A. It depends upon your definition of ‘after Katrina.’ Immediately following the storm, you were lucky if you could open at all and that meant cooking whatever you could get your hands on, for anyone who might be hungry. So menus were very simple and traditional. Now we're light years away from where we were and one has the option of cooking whatever he or she may dream up. I cook foods that I love to both eat and cook. I'm sure many others all do the same. However, the locavore Besh wants to spend as many of our grocery dollars as possible right here in my own backyard in hopes of perpetuating this great culture.

Q. Which chefs are coming up the ranks in New Orleans who you think we should take notice of?

A. Just like every great food town, we've got a slew of young chefs doing great things. Some of my favorites are people I've partnered with after they rose up through the ranks like Alon Shaya of Domenica or Erick Loos of La Provence. Donald Link (Herbsaint) and what's he's done for Cajun food in the city is monumental. Leah Chase's grandson, Edgar Chase IV, has just moved back from cooking in Paris to take over the stoves of Dooky Chase, you can bet that'll be interesting.

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Q. You've always emphasized regional ingredients in your cooking, what local Louisiana ingredients are you most excited about using right now?

A. In the spring it's crawfish, in the summer it's shrimp and crabs, in the winter and fall it's oysters and ducks.

Q. Is there one dish you never tire of making?

A. Pasta. I love filling it, rolling it, cutting it, cooking it and saucing it. So much you can do with pasta.

Q. Is there one perennial crowd-pleaser?

Anything with crab meat. As the old saying in New Orleans goes, ‘if you want to sell it, put crabmeat on it.’ One of only three things on the menu that hasn't changed is our gnocchi of local potatoes tossed with jumbo lump crab meat and black truffle.

Q. What is your least favorite new culinary trend?

A. I don't know if I have one. I love to learn new things and apply them to what I love to cook. The thing with the newest trends that I dislike the most is that if we aren't careful cooking we’ll become too cerebral and less soulful.

Q. What's the one food or dish you can't resist eating?

A. Vietnamese pho with brisket, tripe and tendons. I eat it once a week in New Orleans East.

Q. New Orleans is one of the few places left in the US with a rich local culinary history. What are the three most essential dishes or foods one should eat when visiting?

A. Over-stuffed po-boy, Seafood Gumbo, Sazerac.

Q. What authentic places should people go to eat those dishes?

A.- Parkway Bakery for your po-boys on the Bank of Bayou St. John;

- Seafood Gumbo at Luke on St. Charles. Okay, it's my place but I still say it's the best, if not there then try Dooky Chase on Orleans Ave;

- Lunch at Galatoire’s, let John serve you and dine on the best Sazeracs in town.

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Q. Back in the day, Buster Holmes used to serve red beans and rice every Monday, where should visitors go now for a similar local experience?

A. The Bon Ton Cafe on Magazine and Natchez, simply the best Creole food done the right way!

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Q. Your recommendations for best authentic places for:

A. - Po-boys? Parkway Bakery

- Jambalaya? The Bon Ton

- Gumbo? Dooky Chase or Luke

- Muffulettas? Nor Joe in Old Metairie or the Frenchaletta at Liuzza’s in Mid-City does its muffuletta on a french bread loaf.

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Q. Are there other local dishes that you think should be tried and where should they be eaten?

A. I've got a whole book on this stuff. You name an iconic New Orleans dish and everyone of us will tell you where to eat it. That's what I love most about this town.

Q. You’ve talked about the Vietnamese food markets. Are there any you recommend for culinary-focused travelers to see?

A. The Vietnamese restaurants are cooking up some of the best foods I've ever eaten, period. It's really an insiders only world, which those of us persistent enough are just starting to realize. We're working on a new market for New Orleans East at Mary Queen of Vietnam Catholic Church, but I think the restaurants are the real prize, many of them just minutes from downtown and very easy to find. Now those are worth the trip! Kim Son, Dong Phuong, Ba Mien, Pho Tau Bay, Nine Roses, and Tan Dinh are some of my favorites.

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Details of chef John Besh’s recommendations for traditional local food and Vietnamese in New Orleans.


- Red Beans & Rice

- Jalapeno Cheese Grits

- King Cake



Warehouse District


945 Magazine Street

New Orleans, LA 70130 (view map)

T: 504.528.1940 (make a reservation)



Sun. - Thu: 11am - 9pm

Fri - Sat: 11am - 11pm


Central Business District

New French

301 Tchoupitoulas Street
New Orleans, LA 70130 (view map)

T: 504.299.9777 (make a reservation)



Mon - Fri: 11am - 2pm

Daily: 5pm - 10pm


Central Business District


Harrah's Casino

4 Canal Street

New Orleans, LA 70130 (view map)

T: 504.533.6111 (make a reservation)



Central Business District


123 Baronne Street

New Orleans, LA 70112 (view map)

T: 504 648.6020 (make a reservation)



Daily: 11am - 11pm


North Shore


25020 Highway 190

Lacombe, LA 70445 (view map)

T: 985.626.7662 (make a reservation)



Wed - Sat: 5pm - 9pm

Sun: 11am - 9pm


Central Business District


333 St. Charles Avenue

New Orleans, LA 70130 (view map)

T: 504.378.2840 (make a reservation)



Daily: 7am - 11pm

Lüke San Antonio


German / French Brasserie

125 E. Houston Street

San Antonio, TX 78205 (view map)

T: 210.227.5853 (make a reservation)



Daily: 11 am -11 pm

My New Orleans: The Cookbook

Purchase at:




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