Donald Link, New Orleans, Cochon, Cochon Butcher, Herbstaint, 71030, Warehouse District, Cajun, Creole, Sausage, Real Cajun Food, Real Cajun: Rustic Home Cooking from Donald Link’s Louisiana, Cookbook, John Besh, Edgar Chase IV, recommendations, Where to eat in New Orleans.



Chef Donald Link’s cookbook is named “Real Cajun” and that’s exactly what this South Louisiana native is bringing to the New Orleans dining scene, authentic Cajun cuisine. He owns three restaurants, Herbsaint - which leans towards French cooking, and Cochon and Cochon Butcher - which are both an homage to his Cajun roots.

Those roots are deep and after Hurricane Katrina, chef Link decided to bring the traditions of his own background to his cooking. Not blackened fish-Paul Prudhomme inspired kind of Cajun, but the foods that have long been eaten in the Acadiana region of Louisiana - boudin, andouille sausage, cracklins, and fried alligator.

Donald Link has worked in Louisiana kitchens since he was 15, leaving the state to head west where he attended The California Culinary Academy in San Francisco and worked at several Bay Area restaurants.  In 1995, Link came back to New Orleans for an externship with Susan Spicer at Bayona. He returned to the West Coast in 1997 to work with Loretta Keller at Bizou and to open Jardinière with Traci Des Jardins.

In 2000, he came home to Louisiana to open Herbsaint. In 2007, he was honored with The James Beard Foundation’s 2007 Best Chef: South.


Q. You own three restaurants in New Orleans: Herbsaint Restaurant, Cochon, and Cochon Butcher. Can you tell us a little about each?

A. Herbsaint was the first, which is defined as a French American bistro. We have a strong Louisiana influence because of my heritage and where we are located. Our cooking techniques are very rustic country French and Italian.

Cochon is inspired by my childhood and the food I ate growing up, basically my southern Alabama roots from mom and the Cajun roots from dad.

Cochon Butcher is a deli, salumeria, and wine bar all rolled into one, with elements of a Cajun butcher shop.


Q. How do you think Cajun fare had been represented in New Orleans, prior to the opening of Cochon?

A. I think there are some pockets of good classics like Bon Ton, but it has always been a different style than Acadiana. I'm partial to the more meaty brothy gumbos of Cajun country compared to the thicker tomatoey gumbos of New Orleans, even though I like them, they are different than what I had growing up. Some other Cajun places in New Orleans seemed overly geared to the tourist trade.


Q. Why was it important for you to return to the traditional methods of making Louisiana-style charcuterie?

A. As I've gotten older (and had kids) I have realized the importance of upholding traditions. And also because it simply tastes better cooked the old school way.


Q. Is it true your family played a significant role in New Orleans’ culinary history?

A. My great-great grandfather Nicholas Zaunbrecher played an important role in the development of rice farming in Louisiana, by being the first to open shipping up to New Orleans and beyond. Also by developing commercial farming practices. Not in New Orleans history as such.


Q. Your cookbook is called “Real Cajun” - do you think that there is an erroneous perception about what “real” Cajun food is?

A. Paul Prudhomme is an amazing chef. I learned a lot from his first book and I think his food is great. He created such a Cajun craze that so many other people tried to copy the cuisine and I think did some damage to its reputation. I don't consider Cajun food to be spicy (well seasoned, yes), but not spicy. Cajun became synonymous with spicy and that is not the true nature of Cajun food. I relate more to really simple home style cooking based in Country French techniques, and German charcuterie.


Q. What do you think are the most iconic New Orleans dishes and where should people go to have them?

A.- The Muffaletta - Cochon Butcher

- R & O special (hot roast beef, ham po-boy) at R & O

- Raw oysters on the half - Acme or Casamento’s

- Fried catfish po-boy at Guy's Po-Boy on Magazine Street

- Red beans and rice - Popeyes (yes Popeyes) or the Zoo

- Eggplant Tina - Tony Angello’s

- Charbroiled oysters - Drago’s.

Q. Do you go out to the fairgrounds for Jazz Fest? What are your favorite foods to eat there?

A.- Cochon de Lait Po-Boy

- Crawfish Pie

- Crawfish Filo

- Mango Ice (with the vodka you snuck in, not me though)

- Natchitoches Meat Pies.


Q. Do you have musical acts at Jazz Fest that you love to see?

A. Fais Do-Do stage and whoever is on the second stage. I'm working the whole time. I get 2 hours on the first Sunday and that's about all the Jazz Fest that I get.


Q. What did you find was the most significant change, culinary-wise, in New Orleans post-Katrina?

A. Everyone went deeper into local products. Buying local and supporting your community took on a whole new meaning.


Q. How did working in San Francisco influence your cooking style?

A. By learning to be more ingredient driven in cooking.

Q. What are the least “chefy” and most “chefy” things you like to eat and why?

A. Least chefy - Whopper.

Most chefy - duck meat with way too much sea salt, wrapped in a fresh out of the oven duck skin.


Q. Do you have a go-to knife, gadget or ingredient that you would advise a home cook to stock?

A. Henckels 8 inch professional - always and forever.


Q. Who are the purveyors that inspire your creativity, what products, and why?

A. Dino my shrimper, Connie Green [of Wineforest Wild Foods] for my mushrooms, Billy Link for my crawfish, among several others, because they have the absolute best in the world of what they do.

Q. Who else in your field is doing interesting things you think deserves more praise and why?

A. There are a lot of great home cooks whose food I have had that have been some of the best food I have ever eaten.

In New Orleans, I think Adolfo Garcia has produced some great New Orleans restaurants.


Q. Favorite restaurants where you’re happy to spend your own dime (regardless of price, fancy or casual, anywhere in world)?

A. - Lilette, New Orleans

- Verger des Papes in Chateauneuf de Pape, France

- Sushi Yasuda, NYC

- Gramercy Tavern, NYC

- Ton Kiang, San Francisco, to name a few.


Q. Off-the-beaten-track place that most likely isn’t on a tourist’s radar?

A. Tony Angelo’s in New Orleans. 

Q. For cocktails?

A. The Columns -- for its setting and view.

Q. For Po-Boys?

A. Guy's on Magazine, it's always been my go-to. They are just right.

Q. For Oysters?

A. Acme -- great company and bad ass oyster shuckers, and it's fun.

Q. For crawfish?

A. Hawks in Rayne, LA -- purged for 24 hours, big, beautiful and perfect, they are life changing even for a native.

Q. For Creole?

A. Upperline -- because she preserves the true tradition of the classics.

Galatoires as well -- go there on a Friday, if you can.

Q. Cajun country?

A. Hawks in Rayne, Cafe Des Amis, Bubba Frey’s.

Q. Places you love to go back to in San Francisco?

A. Ton Kiang (every single time) and Okazu Ya Sushi.

[See details.]


Details of Donald Link’s recommendations on where to eat in New Orleans, Louisiana, New York, and San Francisco.


- Chef Donald Link’s Potato Rolls



Warehouse District


930 Tchoupitoulas Street

New Orleans, LA 70130 (view map)

T: 504.588.2123 (make a reservation)



Mon - Fri: 11am - 10pm

Sat: 5:30pm - 10pm

Sun: closed


Warehouse District

Cajun Salumeria

930 Tchoupitoulas Street

New Orleans, LA 70130 (view map)

T: 504.588.PORK



Mon - Thu: 10am - 10pm

Fri - Sat: 10am - 11pm

Sun: 10am - 5 pm  


Warehouse District

French American Bistro

701 Saint Charles Avenue

New Orleans, LA 70130 (view map)

T: 504.524.4114 (make a reservation)



Mon - Fri: 11:30 am - 10pm

Sat:  5:30pm – 10pm

Sun: closed


Real Cajun: Rustic Home Cooking from Donald Link's Louisiana.

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Q & A


Real Cajun: Rustic Home Cooking from Donald Link's Louisiana.

Recommended By

Chefs John Besh and Edgar Chase IV


Donald Link’s recommendations on where to eat in New Orleans, Louisiana, New York, and San Francisco.


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