Back from the Big Easy

Chris Brandl - Tuesday, August 25, 2015

New Orleans, that amazing and resilient city has a personality all its own. The history, the culture, the architecture, and the food - the unbelievably incredible food - are all uniquely special to the Crescent City. If you've been there, you know what I'm talking about. 

I’ve found that traveling often breeds inspiration. Especially when it comes to food. When I’m away from my neck of the woods, I’m acutely aware of the different tastes, textures, and aromas of the local cuisine. Whether abroad, or in a fabulous city like New Orleans, there’s always something to pique my culinary curiosity.

So when I got a chance to hit the road with an old friend to New Orleans and the experience was again both energizing and motivating. If Jazz is King of the city, then New Orleans’ exceptional creole and cajun cuisines are the Princes. From the ritzy restaurants of the French Quarter, to the smaller yet flamboyant po-boy shacks, it’s obvious that both locals and visitors alike share a love of food.

For pure research purposes only, I sampled the many traditional dishes that make up the regions' cuisine. I appraised a number of po’ boy sandwiches. I made my way through a variety of gumbos. I experimented with ravigotes, rémoulades, and étouffées. And yes, I tested more than a few beignets.

What I found to be interesting and inspiring, is that each chef had a slightly different take on each dish, each delicacy. They were the same, but different. What made for that difference? Was it the spices? Was it the slight variation in cooking time? Or maybe it was the quest for the perfect marriage of ingredients. Perhaps it was all of those things. Or was it something more intangible? In a city that made it back from one of the worst natural disasters in our country’s history, I think the answer is more abstract, more immaterial.

It’s got to be love, really. The love one has to create something that’s all one’s own in your own community. And the love to share your talents with others, for their enjoyment. For sure, I picked up a few tips that I'll bring back to Jersey with me (just check out our new oyster or shrimp po' boys down at the food truck. But my greatest take-away was to always put heart and soul into the dishes I create. Because at the end of the day, that’s the gift I have to share. And I love it.
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