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Is New Orleans Cuisine All That Is Allowed? (Rant)[Moved from N.O. board]


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Is New Orleans Cuisine All That Is Allowed? (Rant)[Moved from N.O. board]

Bill Hunt | | Jan 23, 2009 05:39 PM

[Rant Mode On]

I am puzzled by what appears to be a recent trend - bashing, or recommending that diners do not go to any restaurants that do not serve “authentic” New Orleans cuisine.

It seems that many are only interested in seeing restaurants that do a variation of one type of fare be patronized. All other restaurants are to be shunned, if you read a lot of these recent posts here.

I don’t get it. Yes, the cuisine of New Orleans, as broad as that term is, certainly is great. It is part of the charm of the City. However, it is not all that is there. How many posters decry the lack of “ethnic” restaurants in New Orleans? That has been a continued topic for some time. Could it be that each folded, because they did not serve New Orleans cuisine? Many writers moan about world-class chefs not moving to New Orleans. Could it be that they wish to do something besides New Orleans cuisine?

When one thinks about the cuisine of New Orleans, they will soon find that it is an amalgam of the cuisine of many lands and cultures. There are elements of French, Spanish, African, Cajun, Italian, Caribbean and a few others thrown in for good measure. It is wonderful food – no doubt. I love it. I grew up on it. I order it on every trip back – just not exclusively. Few of the excellent dishes that my wife prepares are without some sort of New Orleans influence. It is great, but it is not the only thing on the culinary landscape.

Maybe I am just missing something here. When I travel to San Francisco, I want to dine in great restaurants. When I travel to Honolulu, I want to dine in great restaurants. When I dine in London, I want to dine in great restaurants. When I dine in Paris, I want to dine in great restaurants. Same for any of hundreds of cities around the globe. I do not demand specific cuisine, though some cities might lean more toward one type, like Honolulu and Paris. In Honolulu, I do end up with more Hawaiian/Asian, than most cuisines, but have greatly enjoyed classic French and Italian. In Paris, most of the restaurants do variations of French, whether classic, provençal or even colonial, but I have had great Indian there, as well. These have all been great restaurants. Some just happen to be geographically located in one spot in the world, regardless of the theme of their cuisine. What is wrong with seeking out great restaurants in cities that are blessed to have them?

New Orleans is a world-class city. Yes, it’s still getting back on its feet, but it has a history, that does not exist is such abundance anywhere else. It has great restaurants, and many do offer up New Orleans cuisine. However, some others offer up great food, that is not directly influenced by the culinary history of the City. What is wrong with these? What about chefs with classic French training, who would no more use some of the New Orleans takes, than they would embrace the food of Ukraine. Are they all bad? Are they all to be shunned, reviled and patrons steered from their doors?

I understand wishing to nurture, perpetuate, support and enjoy the cuisine that is local, especially in poor times, from many sides. Still, there are some great chefs, who have chosen to not do pure New Orleans food. Should they be run out of town on a rail? Is Baton Rouge a better place for them to open up their restaurants?

I have made enough recommendations on this board for restaurants that offer pure New Orleans cuisine, but also many that do not. Each has been based on the great food, and excellent service offered. As I stated, I love New Orleans cuisine. I appreciate it. Still, I cannot understand the aversion to have a visitor to New Orleans dine at any establishment, that does not meet someone’s idea of “authentic” New Orleans cuisine. I find this view to be myopic and counterproductive to a healthy restaurant industry in the City. Were I a chef, who did not specialize in New Orleans cuisine, I’d only think about relocating there if I could count on the tourist trade, as it seems too many locals are so highly protective of one type of food, that they would never be patrons. It would also disturb me that respected members of the New Orleans food community tried to turn visitors away from all restaurants, that did not specialize in the dishes of New Orleans. Would this be a climate that a good business person would rush to? I highly doubt it. After all, operating a restaurant is a business venture. Few can continue for very long, on their legacy and their love of cooking. The patrons need to enter the door. What I see is many folk closing that door, before the patron ever gets to the sidewalk.

New Orleans is a great dining city. It is a city known worldwide for its restaurants representing various cuisines. It should not be relegated to being a “one trick pony.”

Sorry for the rant. I want to see the dining scene in New Orleans exceed everyone’s expectations. I want to see “old friends” prosper, but want to see new chefs add to the total dining scene. New Orleans needs to spring back, and go beyond its previous glory.

I just do not understand the ultra-jingoistic bent. I feel that it is counter-productive to the overall dining scene in a city that I love.

[Rant Mode Off]


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