New Orleans is famous for its tourist destinations. But what is a good tour without enough delicious meals to fill your stomach? You want to make sure to attend to the city’s finest diners before you can call it a successful trip. With that in mind, I tried to make a collection of the top chefs in New Orleans.
Luckily, we have chefs like Susan Spicer and John Besh in the city to spice up the culinary culture here. But, of course, not all of them are natives, and some have so many restaurants outside. But I shall add my list of the best five chefs in New Orleans, including their restaurants and awards.
John Besh- Lover of New Orleans Cuisine Enjoyers
A chef adored by everyone inside and outside the culinary world indeed has some magic you want to explore. However, he is an American chef determined to popularize New Orleans cuisine further to the people.
Besh was born in Mississippi and has worked as a US marine for some time. Even after he graduated from the Culinary Institute of America, he served in the Gulf War. Later, he became the co-owner of Octavio Mantilla of BRG.
John Besh is a philanthropist and authored many cookbooks. He also appeared in several TV shows, like Iron Chef America and Top Chef, from 2009-2014.
Restaurants of Note-
In New Orleans, John Besh has several restaurants. Some of them are as below-
- August is his signature restaurant.
- Luke, which serves German, French, and Creole cuisine.
- Pizza Domenica.
- Shaya- Famous for its Israeli cuisine.
John Besh has some grand awards to show off. Some of them are as below-
- Food & Wine entitled him the ‘Best New Chef’ in 1999.
- He won the ‘Best Chef: South’ from the James Beard Foundation in 2006.
- Besh got the Silver Spoon for revitalizing the culinary legacy of New Orleans in 2008 from Food Arts.
Popular Cookbook That I Recommend-
Tory Mcphail- Taste of the Past and Present
The master of Creole-Caribbean Cuisine, Tory Mcphail, is the executive chef of Commander’s Palace in New Orleans. According to him, when he was pretty famous in the palace, he wanted to taste the cooking custom from 300 years into the past. Hence, he traveled across Europe and many Caribbean islands to taste their foods. And this trip indeed helped him dish out excellent cuisine in his kitchen.
Growing up on farmland, he once said that he wanted the food to tell a story of a place, not just be a culmination of ingredients, and I loved that statement.
His Legendary Restaurant-
Tory Mcphail works as the executive chef of Commander’s Palace. It is a landmark that has been in New Orleans since 1893. The eatery won lots of awards and is a legendary place now.
Awards and Achievements-
Chef Tory won many James Beard Awards, including ‘Best Chef: South’ from 2011 to 2013 and ‘Rising Star Chef’ in 2003.
Nina Compton- Retainer of Caribbean Cuisine
With her cooking expertise, it is no surprise that Nina Compton is so prevalent in New Orleans. She starred in season 11 of Top Chef and was a runner-up. Her signature cuisine is based on the Saint Lucian style. Like many other top chefs, she graduated from the Culinary Institute of America.
She worked under Daniel Boulud in NYC and Norman Van Aken in Miami. Finally, she managed to reach the executive chef position at Casa Casuarina. But Compton again worked as a sous chef in Fontainebleau Miami Beach.
Restaurants of Compton-
Nina Compton has two restaurants in New Orleans as of writing. One is her first, Compere Lapin, which opened in 2015. It is an ideal place to enjoy Caribbean cuisine.
The other is her latest Bywater American Bistro, which she co-owns with her husband, Larry Miller and Chef Levi Rains.
Awards and Honors-
- Compton was awarded the Best Chef: South by James Beard Foundation in 2018.
- She got the Best New Chef award from Food & Wine.
- Eater included Compere Lapin in one of America’s 38 Best Restaurants in 2017.
Cookbook to Check out-
Susan Spicer- Chef, Author, Competitor, Charity Organizer, and More
Susan Spicer has been in the art of cooking for quite a long time. In 1970, she started working at XVI restaurant. Later, Spicer also worked at Hotel Sofitel in Paris for four months. Then, with enough experience and skills, she started her own business with the Savior Faire in 1985.
Spicer is known for her take-out bakery, Spice, Inc. Its name later changed to Wild Flour Breads. She opened some more restaurants in New Orleans afterwards.
Spicer appeared in the Top Chef finale once and also joined many charity events. In addition, her only cookbook received many commends.
Susan Spicer has several restaurants. Aside from her take-out business, her eateries in New Orleans are the bistro Herbsaint, Mondo in the Lakeview neighborhood, and Rosedale near the City Park.
Meanwhile, she co-owns Bayona.
- Spicer won a James Beard Award in 1993.
- In 1993, she also got the Mondavi Culinary Excellence Award.
- James Beard Foundation inducted her in the 2010s Who’s Who of Food and Beverage in America.
- Bayona got the Ivy Award in 1998. In addition, it got Five Beans from New Orleans Times-Picayune.
- She also got the ‘Best New Chefs’ title once from Food and Wine.
Her Must-Read Cookbook-
Crescent City Cooking: Unforgettable Recipes from Susan Spicer’s New Orleans (Winner of the ‘Best New Cookbook’ by New Orleans Magazine and ‘Best American Cookbook’ by the International Association of Culinary Professionals).
Donald Link- Master of Rustic Flavor from the Cajun Region
Donald Link serves dishes that can tell your taste bud the story of the Cajun Region where he grew up. But he sharpened his skills in the West Coast restaurants after graduating from the California Culinary Academy. Remember that Herbsaint restaurant owned by Spicer that I mentioned? Well, it was co-owned by him too.
It is not easy to take a city full of culinary stars by the storm of cooking skills. So link had to come up with exquisite menus to achieve that. You can find juicy Steak and Frites, Duck Leg Confit, and many other Cajun dishes in his eateries.
Besides Herbsaint, Donald Link has Butcher, Cochon, and Peche Seafood Grill. Finally, he opened Gianna in 2019.
- Peche Seafood Grill got the Best New Restaurant award in 2014 from James Beard Foundation.
- Link got the Restaurateur of the Year award in 2012 from the Louisiana Restaurant Association.
- In addition, he was nominated by James Beard Foundation for Outstanding Chef from 2012 to 2018.
Alex Harrel- Alex Harrel is a relatively new character in the culinary scene of New Orleans, yet he is already a fan-favorite.
Leah Chase- She has worked in Dooky Chase’s Restaurant for 76 years. She is one of the oldest living legends in the culinary world of the USA.
Michael Doyle- There are two main reasons people love to eat at Doyle’s Maurepas Foods. Firstly, the food there is fantastic, and secondly, they come at a reasonable cost, unlike many lavish restaurants.
Kristen Essig- Essig and her Meauxbar is famous for the diverse menu. She also won many awards, including the ‘Chef to Watch’ from Louisiana Cookin’ Magazine in 2005.
New Orleans is not only about jazz music and Creole cuisine; it also has a fine dining scene. Thanks to many celebrity chefs, the place is a paradise for food lovers and enthusiasts. So, when in the city, now you know where to go for a lavish meal.