Friday, January 28, 2011

Seven Nations: Spain

"Bloody O'Reilly"
 Spanish Colonial Louisiana  

Governor Ulloa arrived as the first Spanish governor in 1766. His less than warm reception escalated into open rebellion in 1768, when he fled for his life. Governor O’Reilly stopped the rebellion by arresting and assassinating the revolutionaries. He was hated and called “Bloody O’Reilly.”

Governor Galvez arrived in 1776, aiding the Americans in their Revolution with victories over the British in Baton Rouge, Mobile and Pensacola. It was during Governor Miro’s administration that many additional Acadians, or Cajuns, came to Louisiana, joining those who had arrived following their exile from Acadia.

Life during the Spanish Regime

Old French Market Butchers
With the secret Treaty of Fontainebleau in 1762, Spain acquired Louisiana from France, thus owning the entire Southwest. Suddenly living under Spanish rule rather than French, the colonists felt devastated and betrayed.
 In France, only a few protested, including the philosopher Voltaire. He could not conceive how Frenchmen abandoned “the most beautiful climate on the earth, from which one may have tobacco, silk, indigo, a thousand useful products.”

New Orleans became home to bakers, butchers, pastry cooks, tailors, carpenters, candlestick makers, confectioners, tavern owners and innkeepers. Many men of the city were hunters and fishermen, while others rowed the mail boats. There were city slaves selling their garden surplus. Native Americans peddled vegetables, fish, blankets and trinkets on the levees. Meat and vegetable markets were established.The butchers flourished. Everyone in the Louisiana colony ate meat, which was plentiful and cheap. In fact, it was written that, “No country on earth eats more of it… little pieces of bread are served with great pieces of meat; the amount the children eat would frighten a European.”  

Vegetables were scarce and expensive. New Orleans depended on the German community 40 miles upriver to supply its vegetables.

The tavern keeping business was lucrative and nearly monopolized by the Catalans. The crowded taverns were located at every cross street and the taps flowed incessantly. (Not unlike today. A remnant of the Spanish era.) The great fire of New Orleans in 1788 destroyed more than 800 buildings. A strong blowing wind coupled with orders given in Spanish that the French Creoles could not understand wreaked havoc.

The new buildings that followed created the dominate Spanish appearance of the French Quarter today. The Spanish patios, or inner courtyards, along with shady arcades and cooling fountains were all Spanish design. There were tile roofs, stucco, wrought iron balcony railings and Spanish street names. The Cabildo, St. Louis Cathedral and the Presbyter exemplify t
ypical Spanish architecture.

The Cabildo in New Orleans' Jackson Square
The Cabildo government influenced the daily economic life of the town. It oversaw construction and repair of roads, bridges and levees; port regulation; city lighting; sanitation; police and fire protection; and regulation of the food market.

During this period the city government employed slaves for construction jobs. Slaves were hired out as coachmen, cooks, gardeners, maids, stevedores, teamsters, draymen and garbage collectors.

Spanish Food

Spanish cooking  is characterized by the use of olive oil, pimento, paprika, garlic, onions, tomatoes, a generous use of parsley and an occasional orange flavor in meat and poultry dishes. Contrary to popular belief, the cuisine of Spain is not hot. It is one of Spain’s paradoxes that a country largely responsible for providing pepper and other spices to the Western World should have produced a cuisine that uses so little spice. Today, Spanish influences are still found in many of Louisiana’s favorite dishes.

Spanish contributions to Cajun/Creole cuisine
 From the Andalusia area of southern Spain red beans came to the New World. From Catalonia in northeast Spain, Louisiana may have developed its intrigue with fish cooked in tomato sauce. Certainly, Louisiana’s love of garlic and onions as flavoring ingredients is reminiscent of Catalan fare.   

Galicia, in the northwest area of Spain, is known for caldo, a broth of turnip greens, potatoes, white beans, salted pork, onions and smoked pork. Empanadas, which are elaborate Spanish turnovers filled with chopped meat, chopped fruit, vegetables, olives and sometimes hard-boiled eggs, have long been a specialty of Galicia.

Natchitoches, Louisiana is known for its meat pies, which are much like empanadas, filled with ground meat and seasonings.

Paella native to Valencia though made all over Spain, is the country’s most famous dish. It is made with meat and fish mixed with rice, vegetables and seasonings including saffron. The top is decoratively finished with red pepper, shrimp, vegetables and mussels or clams. It is probable that paella is the forerunner of Louisiana’s jambalaya. The Creole name “jambalaya” is derived from the French word for ham, “jambon,” and the African word for rice, “yaya.”

The Canary Islanders

Galvez recruited Canary Islanders to help protect and settle the Louisiana colony. (The Canary Islands, a chain of 13 islands located about 60 miles off the coast of Morocco, was Spain’s first colonial territory and became a pivotal port for vessels sailing to the Americas.) The first Isleños (Canary Islanders) arrived in Louisiana in 1778 and continued to come until 1783. They were strategically settled in four locations around New Orleans to guard approaches to the city: Galveztown, Valenzuela, Barataria and La Concepcion, later San Bernardo de Galvez. Today, most Louisianians who can trace their heritage to Spain are the remaining descendants of Canary Island fishermen who settled in St. Bernard Parish. Elderly Isleños still speak an archaic Spanish dialect brought to Louisiana more than two centuries ago.


Natchitoches Meat Pies
In 1714, Louis Juchereau de St. Denis established a fort in Natchitoches to stop Spanish infiltration from Texas. A Spanish fort was already established at Los Adais (photo 16), capital of the Texas country, just 15 miles west of French Natchitoches. Even though there were conflicts over boundaries and contraband trade, in the evenings and on holidays a unique hospitality existed between the two cultures.

During the Spanish regime in Louisiana, the “El Camino Real” began in Mexico City and ended at Front Street in Natchitoches. Even today, Natchitoches’ architecture, place names, traditions and customs reflect a Spanish influence.

Dawning of the Louisiana Purchase
Trade in Louisiana's Ports
When Spain acquired Louisiana in 1762, it was a small, unprofitable colony of less than 7,500 inhabitants. By the end of Spanish rule, Louisiana was a large and successful colony with more than 50,000 inhabitants. Trade in New Orleans’ port founded the city’s mercantile prosperity. Tobacco and indigo were Louisiana’s staple crops with great possibilities emerging in cotton and sugar.

Though Louisiana colonists lived under Spanish rule, they refused to speak Spanish; there was never a Spanish language newspaper; and the language of commerce was French. Spanish men married French women and raised French-speaking children. Though the French in Louisiana never fully adopted Spanish ways and customs, they owed a greater debt of gratitude to Spain than to their mother country.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Getting into Game

John and Rick cook over a fire in the Louisiana swamp

Unlike John, I didn’t grow up as a hunter or with any background in hunting. I’ve gone hunting as an adult; the most hunting I did was during the four years I was living in England with Gale, working at the Stapleford Park Hotel. I had the chance to go hunting with Malcolm, the hotel’s gamekeeper, in Scotland. We’d be staying in these cabins in the middle of nowhere, and the hunts would start super early in the morning – sometimes as early as 3 a.m. After a proper Scottish breakfast of haggis on toast, we’d hunt pheasant and grouse until about 7 or 8 a.m. and then we’d do the “Whiskey Trail,” hitting the single malt scotch producers – Glenlivet, Glenfiddich, as many as we could fit in. Then we’d come back to the hunting cabin and cook all the game we shot.

Antlers Lodge at Giles Island (Credit:

When I came back to the States, I would occasionally hunt deer and turkey, but it wasn’t a part of my culture like it was for John. He’s been hunting since he was four, so he knows all the trails and all the techniques, from guns to bow-and-arrow. Since we’ve been working together, I’ve had the chance to go hunting with him, and go to some of the super high-end hunting lodges where he gets invited to cook – Grosse Savanne, Giles Island, places in the middle of the marsh where you need a helicopter to even get there. Honestly, it kind of feels like Jurassic Park! But reconnecting with hunting has been awesome. It’s something that I hope to get my boys into so they can handle guns and understand gun safety. I think that’s really important. The younger guys on these hunts with us have a huge appreciation for the lives of the animals they’re taking. I want my boys to have that kind of understanding.
So, on to the menu. We’ve been breaking it down by category. And since the hunting seasons here are so tied to the calendar, the month we open will determine what kind of game animals we’ll have to work with. For now, we’ve got about 10 or 12 items in the works in our Wild Game and Offal category. We’re doing dishes with rabbit, duck, quail, Guinea fowl and venison. The dishes will be very seasonal, and very indigenous to the area; people in New Orleans never hesitate to order these meats.
"Bird in a Cage" for Restaurant R'evolution

We’ll be doing a Bayou Blue venison chop, sort of in the style of Beef Wellington, but with a Native American twist. Jody, our chef de cuisine, made this awesome Native American flatbread, and we made a duxelle and added foie gras, and we wrapped this venison chop and the duxelle and foie and roasted it like a Beef Wellington. We're doing a whimsical take on guinea fowl that's inspired by Louisiana's German heritage: "Bird in a Cage" is smoked Guinea fowl with homemade sauerkraut, Creole mustard spaetzle and caramelized onion sauce, with a caraway "cage" that fits over the top of the dish.
We’ve done a lot of triptychs in this category. We’re trying to showcase different cuts of the same animal with different cooking techniques. It made the category very complicated and intricate, but we’re thrilled with the results.

Triptych of Offal for Restaurant R'evolution

On the offal side of the section, we’ll be doing a whole roasted foie gras presented tableside with six or seven different types of accompaniments. It was a signature dish at Tru, and we’re bringing it back in a new rendition!
We’re working on a great triptych of offal, too, with kidneys, brain and tripe. It’s veal kidneys braised in red wine and served on pumpernickel toast; panko-coated, sauteed lamb brain and tripe stewed old-school Italian with chilis, tomatoes and garlic. 

- Rick

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

'Tis the Season For Birds on the Wing

Ducks at dusk, Creole, LA.

In the R'evolution kitchen, we've begun work on the "Wild Game" portion of the menu, which is inspired by dishes from my childhood.

When I grew up we knew months not by the calendar, but by what was in season. It wasn’t September or the beginning of autumn; it was dove season and the start of deer season. November meant quail, squirrel and rabbit seasons. Snipe season was December and the New Year brought geese, ducks and coots.

Duck hunting in Louisiana.
It’s duck season now in Sportsman’s Paradise. Located at the apex of the Mississippi Flyway, Louisiana is home to some of the best waterfowl hunting in America. Our coastal wetlands, marshes, rivers and lakes are home to mallards, pintail, teal, white fronted geese and snow geese. In Louisiana, waterfowl hunting is a passion…some would say a birthright.

Hunting in Louisiana is generational.
I remember as a young Cajun boy, laying on my back looking up the sight of a 410 barrel at a sky blackened with birds. Lying beside me looking upward were my five brothers, all steady at the aim, great shots, who effortlessly seemed to bring down whatever bird was in their sight.

Not me. I couldn’t hit the side of a barn. It was then that I realized once and for all that I was not a hunter. I wasn’t destined to harvest the wild game; I was meant to cook it. So, I became a chef. I came from a long line of great hunters. I don’t know how many generations of grandfathers preceded the two that I knew, but I’m sure just as they were hunters, those unknown great-grandfathers taught them the skill as well. Naturally, my father was the best of the best. He knew the swamp like no other and was as comfortable there as he was on our front porch.

Chef John Folse and Cajun Escoffier Lee Roy Sevin, Cocodrie, LA.
Our home was filled with ingredients from the swamp floor pantry. I vividly recall trying my best to hide the contents of our old Frigidaire ice box from visiting friends, because it was filled with wild things including heads, feet, feathers and furs, while most of theirs contained domesticated meats such as beef and pork destined for the table. Little did I realize how blessed the Folse family actually was. In fact, we wanted for nothing, because the swamp floor was indeed the richest of all pantries and one an aristocrat could only hope for.

My culinary education in the art of preparing wild game delicacies came at the hands of the “Escoffiers” of Cajun Country. At Uncle Paul Zeringue’s camp on Cabanocey Plantation we learned to chop the trinity and make the best duck and andouille gumbo anyone could ever hope for. At Ivy Bye’s camp on Burton Lane I learned to cook ducks in sauce piquante and fricassèe. At Guy Caire’s camp one could watch an African-American cook from St. Emma Plantation prepare the best of the swamp harvest for governors, senators, state representatives and those too high and mighty for us to know. At Camp La Pirogue on Richbend Plantation my brother, Larry, and Griz Granier manned the stove for venison stews with wild mushrooms and dove breast fricassée. These were the classrooms where we were educated in game cookery, and although we felt that we graduated with honors, none of us could ever cook a dish to resemble that of our teachers. We still long for and create those unique flavors today and are excited to include them on the menu of Restaurant R’evolution.

Monday, January 17, 2011

The Seven Nations: France

Louis XIV, The Sun King
Louisiana’s past is peppered with prominent personalities. Our history begins with Louis XIV, Le Roi du Soleil” or “The Sun King” and Louisiana’s namesake. Under his leadership, some of America’s most epic adventures occurred, not the least of which included the Louisiana territory. 

From the beginning, the Mississippi River was the artery of Louisiana’s commerce and trade. The French-Canadian, Renee-Robert Cavalier, Sieur de La Salle, is officially recognized as the discoverer of the Mississippi River’s mouth. It was LaSalle who claimed the Louisiana Territory, naming it La Louisiane for France on April 9, 1682. Still today, La Salle is heralded as “the Columbus of the Mississippi Valley; the blazer of the virgin Mississippi trail.” La Salle, though a notable explorer and French loyalist, seems to have “made a mistake” on the maps showing how to find the mouth of the Mississippi. Allegedly, he suffered from the twin deadly sins of greed and ambition. You see, New Spain lay just South of Louisiana’s border and held treasures of gold. La Salle set about the task of becoming wealthy while colonizing La Louisiane and plundering gold-laden Spanish ships. La Salle’s alleged dark and obscure intent was birthed by his mapmaker, who placed the mouth of the Mississippi River at Matagorda Bay, just north of modern-day Corpus Christi, Texas, 500 miles west of the actual location of the river’s mouth.  Ironically, La Salle missed the Mississippi’s mouth and landed at Matagorda Bay, conceivably completing his deliberate plan. But, his plan failed when his men mutinied and murdered him somewhere near the modern-day Louisiana-Texas line. 

Pierre Le Moyne, Sieur d'Ilberville

Some years later, another French-Canadian, Pierre Le Moyne, Sieur d’Iberville led another French expedition to La Louisiane tasked with re-discovering the mouth of the Mississippi and igniting colonization efforts. Considered one of Canada’s greatest heroes, he was affectionately known as “the Cid of New France.” Iberville chose his younger brother, Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne, Sieur de Bienville  then only 20 years old, to join him on the adventure. Bienville ultimately founded New Orleans and became one of  Louisiana’s first governors.
Jean- Baptiste Le Moyne, Sieur de Bienville

Iberville, Bienville and crew maneuvered along the northern rim of the Gulf of Mexico; but, finding the river’s mouth was no easy task. From the Gulf, the river’s mouth was nearly invisible even at close proximity. In the 16th century the Spanish named the river “Rio del Escondido” or “Hidden River.” Heavy rain and a north wind complicated the voyage. Then, quite accidentally, they re-discovered the Great “Malbanchya.” (One of the Native American variations for the name of the Mississippi River was “Malbanchya” or “Malbanchia.”)

Mardi Gras was religiously observed for the first time in Louisiana on Tuesday, March 3rd, 1699 when Iberville and his crew spent the night 36 miles upriver. Iberville wrote, “We have given the name Mardi Gras to this point.” And, Louisianians have festively celebrated Mardi Gras ever since.

By March 17 the explorers had ventured upriver to an area of bluffs on the Mississippi’s east side where a stream divided the Houmas and Bayougoula hunting grounds. A tall, red maypole stood on the bank with several fish heads and bear bones tied to it. Iberville called this place “red stick” or “Baton Rouge,” the present site of Louisiana’s capital city.

1718 Map of Louisiana
With the rediscovery of the mouth of the river, forts were established throughout the Louisiana Territory and colonization began in earnest. In 1714, Louisiana’s first colony, the Natchitoches post was established. Finally in 1718, Bienville founded New Orleans, naming it for Philippe, duc d’Orléans.

The Colonists

France’s primary interest in this new colony was to have an outlet for the fur trade in the upper Mississippi Valley. The coureurs-de-bois or Canadian backwoodsmen, were trappers. Most of these men were single and preferred living a crude, unsettled lifestyle. They did not cultivate the land, preferring to live on what they hunted. They were not well regarded by the religious or the “society” from France. However disagreeable, they furnished the colony with furs, bear oil and meat.

The Cassette Girls
Strong, healthy settlers willing to work were critical for the survival of the colony. Requests were repeatedly sent to France for hardworking people. Girls were requested with the hope that men, particularly the coureurs-de-bois, would marry and settle down. In September 1704, approximately 27 girls arrived in Louisiana from Paris and Rochefort aboard the Pelican. In February 1728, another boatload of virtuous girls arrived, ready for marriage. Each was provided with a little trunk (cassette) of clothing, thus earning them the nickname, "The Cassette Girls".

French Colonial Foods

Perhaps one of the best colonial food accounts came from Sister Marie Madeleine Hachard, an Ursuline nun who arrived in 1727 with 10 other nuns from Rouen, France.

She wrote to her father upon arrival, “We eat meat, fish, peas, and wild beans and many fruits and vegetables, like pineapples, which are the most excellent of fruit, watermelons, sweet potatoes, apples, which are very much like the russets of France, figs, pecans, cashew nuts, which when eaten stick in the throat, and “giranmons,” a kind of pumpkin. Even so there are a thousand other fruits which have not yet come to my knowledge.“…we live on wild beef, deer, swans, geese and wild turkeys, rabbits, chickens, ducks, teals, pheasants, partridges, quail and other fowl and game of different kinds. The rivers are teeming with enormous fish, especially the brill, which is an excellent fish, rays, carps, salmon and an infinity of other fish which are unknown in France. Milk chocolate and coffee are much used here. A lady of this country gave us a goodly supply and we take some every day…We are getting remarkably used to the wild food of this country. We eat a bread which is half rice and half wheat…Rice cooked in milk is very common and we eat it often along with sagamite, which is made from Indian corn that has been ground in a mortar and then boiled in water with butter or bacon fat. Everyone in Louisiana considers this an excellent dish.”

“Regarding the fruits of the country, there are many that we do not care for but the peaches and figs are very excellent and abundant. We are sent so many of them from the nearby plantations that we make them into preserves and jelly. Blackberry jelly is particularly good. Reverend Father de Beaubois has the finest garden in the city. It is full of orange trees which bear as beautiful and as sweet an orange as those of Cape Francis. He gave us about 300 sour ones which we preserved. Thanks to God, we have never yet lacked anything.”

The Petticoat Insurrection

Macque Choux Corn
According to legend, in 1718 the women of New Orleans rebelled in what has become known as “The Petticoat Insurrection.” The women knew very little about the strange foods of this new land and were disgusted with their monotonous diet of Indian corn. They protested to Governor Bienville, marching to his house banging utensils on their cast iron pots. Being a diplomat, Bienville sent his housekeeper, Madame Langlois, to live with the Native Americans for about six weeks. From the Native Americans she learned to flavor dishes by adding bay leaves, boiled whole ears of corn and learned to stuff squirrel with pecans and spices. She even prepared succotash, a delicious combination of corn and butterbeans. Upon her return, she educated the New Orleans ladies in what must have been the first culinary school in North America. Even today, Madame Langlois is considered the “Mother of Creole cooking.”

The End of the French Colonial Period

Unfortunately, by the end of the 1750s, France was spending a tremendous amount of money on the colony with precious little in return. With an unprosperous New World colony and mounting troubles at home, France abandoned colonial Louisiana. With the secret Treaty of Fontainebleau in 1762, Spain possessed colonial Louisiana and the Spanish colonial era of Louisiana history began.

FL State of Mind

It’s been freezing here in NOLA, as cold as it’s been since I’ve lived here. In the 30s -- Chicago weather -- and it looks like it's ready to snow. It feels even colder because I've been going back and forth to Florida for events the past two weekends. Right after New Year's, I was in the Florida Keys for a four-day event at the Ocean Reef Club, where I cooked a four-course dinner at their private clubhouse.
I had never been in the Keys before, and it was great going out on the water, where there were these incredible private yachts owned by mega-billionaires. One of the Wirtz family members – the family that owns the Chicago Blackhawks – had a boat called The Blackhawk anchored there. I loved that Chicago connection!
It was also really cool seeing the wetlands down there. Here, when we go out to the marshland, it’s called bayou, and there it’s the Everglades. To my outsider’s eye, they looked fairly similar; although I’m sure locals would be able to see the differences.
Then it was back to freezing Louisiana, scraping ice off my windshield. Last week we did game tastings at Bittersweet Plantation, and then I prepped for the Gasparilla Inn Food & Wine Weekend, which John and I did together. Chef Peter Timmins hosted some of the nation’s leading chefs and wineries for a weekend of culinary events, tastings, demos and dinners. This was one of the first events that John and I have done together since we began working on R’evolution. We did a walk-around tasting of classic New Orleans dishes (étoufée, seafood gumbo and turtle soup), and then a demo together to talk about the food we served on the walk-around and how we’re reimagining it on our new menu.
I stayed for the Master Chef’s Dinner on Saturday night, a five-course dinner for 250 people that I cooked with four other chefs, each of us doing a course. I served roasted lobster with vanilla and micro herb salad, which is a preview of a sheep's milk ricotta gnocchi dish with lobster that we’re working on for R’evolution.
Stay tuned this week for more on our game dishes!
- Rick

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

On Kitchen Design and the Birth of R’evolution Red

Sneak preview of the R'evolution kitchen

Throughout my 30+ year career, I’ve worked and staged in dozens of kitchens. My own, those of my mentors and colleagues, kitchens in hotels, in homes, in culinary schools. l’ve been blessed – or spoiled, depending on how you look at it – with many beautiful kitchens. Even as a young chef coming up in the restaurant world, working at the Gotham and at restaurants in Europe, I had the privilege to work in kitchens that were spotless, well thought out and efficient.
I’ve also worked in a lot of crappy kitchens. Places where it’s clear the chefs aren’t treating the kitchen like the all-important nerve center that it is. Once you’ve seen both kinds, you appreciate the good ones even more.
My first kitchen was at Trio, in Evanston, Illinois. When Gale and I opened it, we had no money, so we bought all used equipment. But we treated it the way you treat your first apartment. We scrubbed everything until it shone, painted the kitchen and maintained it really well. We appreciated what we had.

The TRU kitchen. Credit:

Then we opened Brasserie T, and from that $50,000 kitchen at Trio, we leapt to a $250,000 kitchen, then on to a $1 million kitchen at TRU. Everything was custom, from the refrigerators and the drawers to Gale’s pastry kitchen. It was a lot of fun to really have a blank slate – no budgetary constraints – and be able to sit down with a pencil and trace paper and draw to our hearts’ delight, from scratch. We knew how lucky we were, and we savored the opportunity.
As many kitchens as I’ve been in, I can tell when the kitchen was designed by a kitchen designer who just didn’t “get it.” Beyond issues having to do with budget and not enough money, there are often lots of mistakes that would have cost nothing to fix, but have to do with thought. If a restaurant isn’t run by a chef, sometimes there are glitches that could have been easily corrected, had the chef been involved in the process. Traffic flow problems are just one example.
When I sit down to design a kitchen, I think through service again and again and again, as though I’m working each of the stations. How do I want the station to flow? Do I want that drawer to open on the left or the right? We have three chefs designing this operation – John, myself and Jody – and that’s exciting. We’re all seeing stuff that the others wouldn’t. Jody has worked in a lot of amazing kitchens himself – he’s worked with Wolfgang Puck and Dean Fearing – but he hasn’t’ worked in Europe. I’ve worked in European kitchens, but not many hotels. John brought that hotel experience. So we got a rounded perspective of all of these facets, and we each brought a different nuance to the project.
Chefs also tend to know what they like and don’t like in kitchen design. It’s kind of like fashion. Everyone knows what works for them, whether it’s islands or lines; Viking equipment or Jade, etc. So last year, as we were thinking ahead to the opening of Restaurant R’evolution, I walked the National Restaurant Association Show with Jody Denton, my sous chef for R’evolution. We went to the Montague and Jade booths, took tons of pictures and quizzed the reps on all the details. And then, as we were rushing out to make it to an afternoon appointment, we walked quickly past the Viking booth on our way off the show floor. I stopped in my tracks.

Viking island suite. Credit:

Viking has traditionally been much more known for its home ranges, but I had heard that they were going to be stepping it up, going against some of the big commercial guys. When I saw what they were showing at NRA, I couldn’t believe my eyes. They’ve done an amazing job improving the durability of their equipment. You can stand on their range doors. The burner grates are like tanks. Two hours later, I had cancelled my appointment. The Viking rep – who turned out to be a friend of John’s, answered about a million questions. We played with everything and told him all about the new project in New Orleans, and drew sketches of the early ideas we had in mind for the R’evolution kitchen. It was just organic.
I got John on the phone, and he knew the team at Viking because he had guest taught at their culinary school, so he suggested we fly down to their plant in Mississippi and check it out. So a few months later we went, and they took us through how everything is made. We sat with their kitchen designer and talked about our plans. The woodburning oven we wanted, the rotisserie. We brought in the team from the Royal Sonesta and they got excited. And the partnership was born. When Restaurant R’evolution opens later this year, we'll have all-Viking back-of-house and show kitchen suites in a custom color that was created just for us: “R’evolution Red" (you'll see that color carry through certain aspects of the front-of-house design too.) For a kitchen geek like me, this is the stuff dreams are made of.

R'evolution kitchen plans

We’ll have more fun details to share with you about the kitchen, as demolition and construction get going in the coming weeks. Glass-doored walk-ins that show off the freshness of our products, and Star Trek-like automatic glass doors between the kitchen and the dining room. But suffice to say, the kitchen at R’evolution is going to be just as beautiful as the dining room. I can't wait for you to see it.
- Rick