Monday, December 10, 2012


Réveillon is the most famous of all evenings in Louisiana’s culinary and cultural history.  This French tradition is celebrated on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve; however, many Réveillon meals today may last a week.  Réveillon is a French word meaning “awakening,” which signaled the end of the Advent fast.  South Louisiana’s Catholic community was required to fast on Christmas Eve, so that they could accept Communion at Midnight Mass.  Fasting had to be tough with so many incredible foods around, especially since Mass normally lasted until two o’clock in the morning.  But, that’s when the Réveillon feast commenced!
Preparation of the lavish dishes was an all-day event that definitely served as penance for the cook.  How anyone could endure the intoxicating smells of cookies baking and gumbo simmering without sneaking a tiny taste, is certainly beyond me.   The cooks created wonderful soups such as rooster and andouille gumbo, sometimes enhanced with fresh-shucked oysters.  The rooster was always plump and ready for butchering in the morning so the gumbo could cook all day long.  Rooster made the best gumbo!  The wonderful snapping turtle soup of the swamps of Louisiana was an anticipated delicacy as well. Classic dishes of salmis pie filled with fresh game from the hunt graced the Réveillon table. Salmis pie could be filled with any number of wild game meats including duck and venison, perhaps rabbit, or even quail and woodcock.  The contents depended on the skill of the hunter.  Small game birds were boiled and boned, then cooked in a rich, brown gravy.  This delectable filling was poured into a pie shell and salmis emerged.  
These magnificent dishes of the Réveillon were accompanied by lamb and veal for the delicious blanquette de veau. Several meat dishes and even sweetbreads found their way to the Réveillon table.  Ducks and geese from the swamps were always enjoyed as were sweet potatoes cooked in any number of ways.  Oyster stew with its thick, rich, brown gravy was tucked inside the vols-au-vent,  or pastry shells.  And for dessert, mother’s cream puffs.  I cherish memories of my mother’s  wonderful cream puffs, the delicious pastry cream inside of the delicate puff pastry.  And, île flottante, or floating isles, were awaited all year long.  I loved the beauty of the egg whites floating atop beautiful big bowls of crème anglaise.   And, no feast was complete without adult beverages:  spiked eggnog, anisette and ratafia, the wild fruit liqueurs that graced the table as well. 
There were bonfires on the levee to celebrate the season, too.  Children began the bonfire building right after Thanksgiving with the lighting of the wooden pyramids on Christmas Eve.   Not only was it finally cold enough in Louisiana to burn bonfires, but these levee torches lit the swamplands for Papa Noel to find his way to the homes of children awaiting gifts of oranges, apples and little carved wooden toys.  (Of course, the bonfires lit the way to church, too, and allowed passersby to warm themselves on their journeys.)
Réveillon was and is about family.  It is about Church.  It is about coming together.  It’s about the “awakening” after Midnight Mass to a celebratory feast with family and friends.  I’m grateful to have the opportunity to serve a genuine, classic Réveillon menu at Restaurant R’evolution that pays homage to our Creole ancestors.  I’m proud to share our Louisiana family and holiday traditions with our diners.  These lavish, legacy dishes already overfill our kitchen and are just awaiting the arrival of guests from the chill of the French Quarter. That’s Réveillon!

For holiday reservations and private parties, please contact Yasmin Smith at 504-553-2224.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Alligators in Chicago, Tattoos in New York, and A Farm in Tennessee

To close September John and I went back to my hometown of Chicago, IL to represent Restaurant R’evolution at Chicago Gourmet, a two-day food and wine event presented by Bon Appétit in Millennium Park.  It was a great event this year! It was my fourth time and John’s second.  Last year the weather was terrible, cold and rainy.  Luckily this time the weather was perfect, pristine and clear with lots of energy in the city from people at the Ryder Cup in Medinah.   Back by popular demand, we served Truffle Debris Poboys on perfect French bread from Red Hen Bread to 1500 people at our tasting station.   This event was very important for us to reconnect with our Chicago fans that have been or would like to come down to New Orleans to experience Restaurant R’evolution in person.  We also saw ‘Top Chef’ Stephanie Izard Executive Chef at Girl & The Goat, Chicago Mayor Emanuel, and Louisiana’s own Chef John Besh who judged the Hamburger Hop!

Cooking Demo at Chicago Gourmet
 Grub Street has a beautiful slideshow of photos from the event on their website. 

Our Restaurant R’evolution Turtle Soup cooking demonstration on Saturday was sold out! It was good to see the emcee, Steve Dolinsky of Chicago’s Hungry Hound.  Steve has Baton Rouge ties, and he missed seeing us at R’evolution while John and I were at the James Beard House.  We chose to do the Turtle Soup to try to show the evolution and revolution of what’s going on here.  Last year we did the Corn & Crab Cappuccino, which we conceptualized in Donaldsonville.  At the demo John explained to the audience how he hunts snapping turtle in the swamps with his bare feet, feeling the shells underwater and trying not to step on alligators. The last day I signed my newest books: Steak With Friends and Scars of a Chef. 
October 12-14th I’ll be attending the New York City Food & Wine Festival.  Because we use Hammer Stahl Cutlery in Restaurant R’evolution, I’m going to be stationed at their booth, and you’ll never guess what I’m doing! Everyone knows I love tattoos.  Kat Von D from Miami Ink actually did my chest tattoo, and some of the artists from Miami Ink that are now at NY Ink will give me a tattoo of a Hammer Stahl knife live in the booth!  Everyone at the festival will be able to get a temporary tattoo of the same design and have their picture taken with me.  Hammer Stahl will have a Twitter Contest all weekend awarding the top voted pictures on Twitter one of 5 prizes, including a $300 gift card to Restaurant R’evolution! So be sure to follow Laura McIntosh who will be capturing the whole thing on “Bringing It Home.”  I’ll also be signing Steak With Friends and Scars of a Chef here too.
Chef Rick Tramonto, tattoo artist Luke Wessman and ”Bringing it Home's” Laura McIntosh at Wooster Street Social Club, NY
Next month John and I will be hosting a special Cooking School & Epicurean Event at the exclusive Blackberry Farm resort in Tennessee in celebration of their 35th anniversary. We are the only two chefs to have ever been invited back to The Farm more than once!  I cannot wait to get there that Monday to see what fresh ingredients we’ll have to work with from The Farm in combination with the fresh ingredients we’ll ship from Restaurant R’evolution.  John and I will probably split the cooking demonstration since it’s an hour and a half, and we plan to cook Scallops and Foie Gras, Red Wine Braised Short Ribs, White Chocolate Bread Pudding Crème Brulee and more, available seasonally at Restaurant R’evolution. I look forward to working with Staglin Winery again, who will pair older vintages and special bottles with our meals at the event.  We’ve had great synergy in the past when I’ve done their wine auction in California and other charity events.

In the meantime, get on over to Restaurant R’evolution for our newest additions: Lunch and Sunday Brunch!


Tuesday, September 18, 2012

What a Month!

The week after Rick and I returned from our invigorating dinner at the James Beard House, we prepared for the launch of Lunch service back in New Orleans.
Restaurant R’evolution began offering Lunch in early August with many standouts from the Dinner menu, so now you don’t have to wait to have Corn and Crab Cappuccino or Death by Gumbo!  And we've decided to offer our house-made, bite-sized treats prepared by Chef Erin, normally available at dinner, also at Lunch in the month of September.  We’ll present Fall-flavored bites in our jewel boxes (see picture on right) after each lunch service with our compliments.  In addition, I’ll be hiding a Restaurant R'evolution gift card in one gift box each week of the month and giving lunch guests complimentary parking in the Royal Sonesta Hotel garage.

Back in August while Rick was off in Chicago and Los Angeles, I was crossing the big pond to the 2012 Olympic Games where I had the privilege to cook for Team USA and represent the Louisiana contingent in BP’s “Spirit of the Gulf” promotion, a series of special events for Team USA showcasing the Gulf Coast’s unique culture, distinctive attractions and our best-tasting seafood. Along with seven of the best chefs from Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, and Mississippi, we prepared buffet-style dinners for over 1000 people each day for three days and a 200-person lunch with cooking demonstrations.  I was excited to serve my ultimate Louisiana crab cakes with a roasted red pepper cream sauce.  My friend and Galatoire’s Executive Chef, Michael Sichel, also showcased Louisiana crab with the restaurant’s classic dish: Crabmeat Maison.  We had prepared all of our recipes at my manufacturing plant in Donaldsonville and shipped the food via UPS to London, chilled at minus 40 degrees. The good news: every ounce of seafood tasted like it had been swimming in the Gulf that morning! The logistics of getting that much Gulf seafood to London took trust and a whole lot of prayers.  

While I wasn't able to sneak away to watch the Games, I was in London on the Glorious 12th, the opening of the grouse hunt.  Bringing a copy of my wild game cookbook to Rules, one of the oldest and game-focused restaurants in Europe, was like my gold medal for the trip.

At the end of August, Rick and I were honored to help organize the Fourth Annual Dining By Design fundraiser at White Oak Plantation in Baton Rouge benefiting neighbors at the Cypress Springs Mercedarian Prayer Center.  The culinary extravaganza at The Crowne Plaza Hotel on Sunday, August 26th was prepared by ten national and Louisiana renowned chefs with tablescapes designed by eight local interior designers and florists.  Patrons feasted on four-course dinners with crawfish boil risotto, root beer glazed veal shank, white chocolate bread pudding and other delicious dishes.  This year we extended the event by adding Chilin’ & Grillin’ the day before as an opportunity to meet and greet the participating celebrity chefs and designers and tour the Prayer Center to learn more about the mission of the Sister Dulce Foundation.  It was a wonderful success, and we’re thankful for the support of everyone involved.  Rick and I had the most fun bringing the visiting chefs on some unique Louisiana field trips, like shrimping and fishing in the Gulf and swamp tours!

This weekend we launched Sunday Brunch at Restaurant R’evolution.  Every Sunday from 10:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. we’ll offer a “r’evolutionary” brunch of Crawfish Crepes, Duck Confit and Eggs, Grillades and Gravy Spanish Style, and more twists on classic dishes!  We invite you to make reservations at 504-553-2277 or on
And November may seem far away, but Rick and I are really looking forward to bringing a taste of Restaurant R’evolution to Blackberry Farmthe exclusive 9200 acre luxury hotel and resort in Tennessee.  If you'd like to attend our Cooking School & Epicurean Event celebrating Blackberry Farm's 35th anniversary please email  We've both been once before, but never together…
The Farm at Blackberry Farm, TN

Saturday, August 4, 2012

No Lazy Summer Days for Restaurant R’evolution

Here we are at the 2 month mark for Restaurant R’evolution and we are excited to announce the debut of lunch service, which will be Monday through Friday from 11:30 until 2:30. Our first service will be Monday August 6 and we are looking forward to launching Sunday Brunch in the coming weeks.

August is known as the month when everyone “leaves town” and for me, it’s no different. Last night I returned to the James Beard House to cook for the 6th time but this was my first time representing Restaurant R’evolution. It doesn’t matter how many times I have made this trip, each invitation is an equally tremendous honor. I was excited to share this experience with Chef John Folse, Executive Sous Chef Erik Veney, Executive Pastry Chef Erin Swanson, Chef de Partie Eric Baucom and Director of Wine Molly Wismeier.  My team and I created a menu designed to give our New York fan base a sneak peek of the flavors of Restaurant R’evolution that John Folse and I have been conceptualizing for the past three years. Though the menu featured many standouts from our dinner service such as the Creole snapping turtle soup, grilled stripe black bass and Pecan-Smoked Berkshire Pork Shank, I hope the attendees will be inspired to come to New Orleans to indulge in the full dining experience in the restaurant’s Storyville Parlour or dine privately in the Wine Cellar Room.

After the James Beard Dinner I will be heading to my home base in Chicago on Friday just in time for Lollapalooza. I will go straight to the festival in Grant Park as soon as I touch down to spend some time with my friend and former sous chef Elliot Graham Bowles. Better known as Graham Elliott, he is the Culinary Director for Lolla and the man behind Chow Town which features his own hand-picked line-up of Chicago based chefs to feed festival-goers. While I won’t be one of the chefs in the 28 food tents, you may see me roving throughout the festival grounds between scheduled commitments.  This is always a great weekend for me.

Next it’s off to Los Angeles for the LA Food & Wine Festival where Erik and I will be representing Restaurant R’evolution at 2 events. The first is the “I Heart  & Champagne Caviar” event on the rooftop of the Montage Beverly Hills on Friday August 10th from 7 until 9 p.m. This is THE event to attend for anyone who loves Champagne and its parallel in extravagance, and one of my favorites, caviar. On Saturday, August 11, Restaurant R’evolution Executive Sous Chef Erik Veney and I will be participating in the Lexus Grand Tasting on the Event Deck of L.A. Live. We will be serving “Shrimp and Grits Villages de L’est” topped with a Cream Cheese Spuma from Restaurant R’evolution’s Dinner Menu.

After Los Angeles, I will be returning to New Orleans to participate with John Folse in one of our favorite charitable events called Dining By Design in Baton Rouge Louisiana. John’s got quite the schedule too.  Check back next week to see how’s he’s doing in London feeding Team USA at the Olympics!

Friday, June 29, 2012

Restaurant R'evolution: Three Week Check-In with Chef Rick

It's been just over three weeks since we officially opened the doors at Restaurant R'evolution, but it's been years since this journey between myself and Chef John Folse actually began. Here at the three week mark, I'd like to share a bit about the months leading up to this exciting time, as well as where we're going in the coming months.

Our Grand Opening “ribbon”
Going into the grand opening, we didn't want “day one” of service to feel like it to the customer. We wanted guests to feel like we'd been open for weeks; they deserve this! And in making this happen, what it all comes down to is training and preparation. At any restaurant that I’ve opened – and I’ve opened 10 – I learned, largely from my experience at Lettuce Entertain You, that the art of training and preparation before an opening is everything. There's really never too much when it comes to training, and it's always ongoing.

Perfecting our Gumbo set-up in training
Before we introduced Restaurant R'evolution to the public, John and I were working for over a year on development, cooking, tasting, and researching. Staff hiring and training were a big part of this preparation period as well. Timing was key, and we had 60 days to make sure that everyone we brought on board had tasted all the food and wines by the glass; knew all of the steps of service; mastered mock services; and graduated from both classroom and practical training sessions before opening night.

It's all about the prep!
In the process of preparation, there's always little stuff that we're constantly tweaking for perfection. In opening a restaurant, you learn that you must be flexible. Originally, we had planned to open R'evolution with a spring menu. So, with our actual early June opening on the cusp of summer, we're already in the process of transitioning the seasonal dinner menu into a full blown summer menu. There is so much coming out seasonally in New Orleans right now – stone fruits, soft shell crab, summer vegetables, to name a few – that we're changing about three dishes a week. It’s exciting but also challenging for the staff; it keeps everyone on their toes!

In addition to the seasonal menu evolution, we're planning the introduction of a number of additional offerings: lunch, brunch, and multi-course tasting menus for the Wine Room and Chef's Table. Every two weeks, something new will be rolled out. Once we do lunch in the next few weeks, we'll get a feel for it and go from there. There's also the hiring and training processes that go into introducing these new offerings. We're hosting job fairs for lunch staff this week, and this will be another huge influx of hiring for both front and back-of-house positions. We'll do closed lunch trainings to ramp up, and then re-start this process for brunch a bit after that.

Myself and Chef Chris Lusk during a mock service
The lunch menu will be all about a “summer lunch” experience, with a variety of sandwiches, pastas, salads, and lots of great seasonal products. Lunch will be light and quick, and very high energy. We're in the French Quarter, so it's all about the business lunch. Come Thursday and Friday, locals are enjoying longer, more relaxing meals with a beverage or two. That's big in New Orleans.

Brunch is also huge here. Right now, the Royal Sonesta has one of the busiest Sunday brunches in the whole city. Our brunch will be an a la carte service with the spirit of R'evolution, and we're excited to give a city that loves brunch a new option. Our Irvin Mayfield Jazz Playhouse  menu roll-out with coincide with the brunch debut as well. 

We're also looking forward to our private dining offerings. We'll be introducing multi-course tasting menus for our Wine Room and the “Chef's Office” space. This room is beautiful and overlooks the kitchen. These will be eight to ten course prix fixe menus, with wine pairing options. They will be very customizable, like the menus I used to do at Tru in Chicago. Eventually we'll introduce a chef's tasting menu in the dining room as well.

The Chef’s Table
In addition to all of the action at Restaurant R'evolution in the coming months, John and I are excited about some other culinary ventures.  Jointly, we're taking R'evolution to New York for a dinner at the James Beard House on August 2, and we’re also doing New Orleans Dining by Design, John's event in Baton Rouge, in August. 

Then we're headed to Blackberry Farm in November. It will be both John’s and my third time there, but our first time there together as a team, which is pretty incredible. Separately, I'm heading to Los Angeles for LA Food & Wine in August, and John is heading to London to cook at the Olympic Village; we're truly representing Restaurant R'evolution at all corners of the world. 

It's been a great three weeks, and we'll continue to roll things out progressively and methodically, see what works, keep training, and keep learning. This is just the beginning at Restaurant R'evolution.