Seafood to go
As executive chef of Galatoire’s Restaurant for the past five years, Brian Landry was the steward for an important piece of the New Orleans culinary identity. He left that local landmark in May, however, for a new post tasked with upholding a much larger tradition.
Now the chef for the Louisiana Seafood Promotion & Marketing Board, Landry advocates for local seafood by cooking it and educating the public and other chefs about it at events across Louisiana and around the country. The new position is part of the board’s response to the BP oil spill and its impact on the local seafood industry.
“I’m basically a traveling salesman for Louisiana seafood,” says Landry, a 34-year-old New Orleans native. “One of the best ways to show people we still have great product is to let them taste it. There’s nothing like that firsthand experience.”
Landry has served a similar role on a more limited scale in the past. In 2008 he won the seafood board’s annual Louisiana Seafood Cook-Off, was named that year’s “King of Louisiana Seafood” and represented the state at promotional events. In his new job he’ll be presenting, and cooking, at trade shows, farmers markets, food and wine festivals and other events full time.
“People trust chefs and they listen to them. They know how to source seafood better than anyone,” says Ewell Smith, executive director of the seafood board. “And chefs listen to chefs. We’re not just talking to the consumer market out there. Chefs buy a lot of seafood for their restaurants and when they hear from a guy like this that they respect and can identify with that goes a long way.”
While the seafood board frequently works with chefs across Louisiana, this official chef position is a new one and it’s a sign of the times. Despite extensive testing of Gulf seafood since the 2010 oil disaster, there’s still a great deal of concern when it comes time to order, according to a study released this spring by the economic development group Greater New Orleans Inc.
In the study, restaurant owners around the country reported that close to 69 percent of their customers now regularly ask where their seafood originated, compared to only 33 percent who did so in 2006. And while some 73 percent of restaurant customers had favorable opinions of Louisiana seafood in 2006, now 50 percent reported unfavorable opinions.