Openings and Awards

You may have heard that a number of New Orleans chefs were nominated for James Beard Society awards this year. Donald Link was up for outstanding chef; Sue Zemanick was nominated again in the rising chef category; and four of the five nominees for best chef in the south region were locals – Justin Devillier of La Petite Grocery, Alon Shaya of Domenica, Tory McPhail of Commander's Palace and John Harris of Lilette. The ceremony was held in New York earlier this week, and unfortunately none of our local chefs won. It's a cliché that it's an honor just to be nominated, but that's actually true of these awards. It's just a shame that Roger Goodell was in charge of deciding the winners this year.

The date has been set for the reopening of Rene Bajeux's namesake Bistrot, though the restaurant is not returning to the Renaissance Pere Marquette where it originally opened. That space is now occupied by MiLa, so Rene Bistrot will return in a new location: the Renaissance Arts hotel, replacing La Cote Brasserie. The hotel is located at 700 Tchoupitoulas St. in the Warehouse District, and it's larger than the Bistrot's prior incarnation. Hopefully Bajeux will be able to recreate the food he served before Katrina closed his first restaurant. Given his experience working with the Renaissance group in the past, I have no doubt the new place will be successful. You can call 613-2350 to make a reservation; they're actually doing a Mother's Day brunch as a sort of preview this weekend, if you want to get an early glimpse of the new place.

Chef Susan Spicer is helming an 8-day tour of Tuscany this year from November 5-13. The tour will include visits to wine cellars, a cooking class, Michelin-starred restaurants and stops in Florence, Greve, Sienna, and Lucca. It sounds like a pretty neat trip, and Spicer is undoubtedly a fantastic person to lead this kind of excursion. The tour is limited to twelve guests, so if you're interested, check out the website.

Restaurant R'evolution, the collaboration between chefs John Folse and Rick Tramonto, is set to open on June 4 in the Royal Sonesta hotel at 777 Bienville Street. I had the opportunity to check the restaurant out this week, and it's something to see. If there's another restaurant that's opened in the last 10 years on which more money was spent, I'll eat my hat. You're no doubt familiar with chef Folse, but Tramonto may be a name you've never heard. The chef came to prominence in Chicago, as the executive chef of Tru, and still has a few operations in the Windy City. His biography is longer than I have space or time to recount, but you can get an idea of his credentials  by clicking on this link. A few years ago, work took me to Chicago pretty frequently, and I had a chance to dine at Tru. It was a spectacular meal, and if the food at R'evolution is on the same level, it will be one of the best restaurants in New Orleans. Expect to see my initial impressions of the place in a couple of months.

I hope you've all recovered from Jazz Fest, and are ready for the long period of hot weather ahead. It's typically a slow time for the restaurant scene in New Orleans, but new places keep popping up like mushrooms here, and that trend doesn't look to be ending any time soon. If there's a place you'd like to see covered here, feel free to leave a comment or drop me an email.

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