Best Sous Chef: Amy Mockovac
If a restaurant kitchen has a secret weapon, it’s the garde manger, someone who is versatile and inventive enough to create cold dishes – salads, hors d’oeuvres and garnishes – that hold their own without upstaging the main event.
Amy Mockovac does it and then some. An eight-year veteran of Commander’s Palace, Mockovac migrated to Dickie Brennan’s Bourbon House, along with chef Jared Tees, when the seafood and Creole restaurant first opened. Since then, her role has expanded well beyond garde-manger – especially after Hurricane Katrina, as staffing shortages have redefined kitchen roles across the city.
A Houston native who came to New Orleans via Los Angeles and San Francisco, Mockovac learned the trade as a 15-year-old dishwasher and worked her way up from there. “I kept my mouth shut and my eyes open,” she says. It wasn’t a formal education, but Mockovac has something more valuable, perhaps: an innate sense of what ingredients work well together and a collector’s eye for detail that she uses to gather inspiration from diverse cultures and cuisines.
It shows up in the gelato she makes from scratch, without extracts or artificial flavorings; returning from a vacation in Italy, Mockovac was eager to integrate some of the ideas she picked up there into Bourbon House’s menu. But “I’m not really a pastry chef,” she insists. “Just a garde-manger who likes to make desserts.”
Mockovac’s versatility has come in handy lately as she shuttles between roles at the restaurant. But her goal has remained consistent.
“I want to make something that’s memorable,” she says. “That’s what I’m striving for – to make something [about which] someone says, ‘I’ve got to go back there and have that again.’” –R.M.