I first ate a meal at Boucherie in December of 2008. That was not long after the place opened, but I was impressed enough that I included it in a list of the most memorable meals I’d had that year on my Web site. Indeed, I liked it so much that I went back within a week to bring a friend to whom I’d raved about the first meal.

Chef Nathanial Zimet and his business partner, James Denio, had been cooking some of the same food I had at Boucherie out of a big purple truck to late-night crowds outside of venues like Tipitina’s. I got to know them a little after writing about the eatery for the Restaurant Insider in February of 2009 and then got to know them even better when New Orleans Magazine honored Boucherie as the best new restaurant of 2009 in December of that year.

I also don’t want to overstate my friendship with Nathanial. I like him, and when I’ve seen him in his restaurant or elsewhere, we’ve had pleasant conversations. He’s a talented chef, and the enthusiasm he has for cooking is infectious. Six months or so ago, I had a late lunch at Boucherie, and after my meal, I had a chance to chat with Nathanial about an upcoming menu on which he was working with some of his cooks. I am not a good enough writer to describe the excitement in his eyes as he talked about what he was planning. The best I can do is to say that by the end of the conversation, I was anticipating my next meal at Boucherie as though I hadn’t already eaten way too much. I feel for James, as well. I don’t think I’ve ever met a more genuine person. I like the guys is what I’m saying.

I was in depositions on Monday at the Corps of Engineers offices on Leake Avenue. I heard the news that Nathanial had been shot via a text that I didn’t read until late that afternoon during a break in the proceedings. I’m glad for the delay, because by that time, the news was that Nathanial’s life wasn’t in danger. I’d have hated to be left wondering about his condition.

There are a number of ways in which you can help Nathanial. You can donate to a fund set up at Capital One Bank. A beer tasting is being set up by The Beer Buddha with proceeds going to Nathanial’s medical expenses. There’s a benefit being planned for July 10 at the Howlin’ Wolf, as well; more details on that as they come in. If you’d like to participate or help in any way, please send a note to benefit4nathanial@gmail.com.

I hope that the various benefits can defray the medical expenses that Nathanial is incurring and that he’s back in the kitchen soon. I also hope, selfishly, that this experience doesn’t mean an end to his time here.

There are so many things to love about New Orleans, particularly for someone passionate about food. Being shot at 5:30 in the morning outside of your home is not one of those things. I wish I knew a solution; I wish there were an easy answer.