The Times-Picayune – When John Besh opens a new restaurant, it’s generally preceded by some globetrotting. (See Domenica, which came off the drawing board as chef-partner Alon Shaya was hopping around Italy, building his pizza-, pasta- and salumi-making chops.) Now along comes Borgne, a seafood-focused restaurant slated to open early next year in the soon-to-(finally)-reopen Hyatt Regency New Orleans.
“What I enjoy doing is playing up on some of the authentic flavors of the cultures that built New Orleans,” Besh explained, and the Canary Island influence is one “that hasn’t been played up that much.”
Thousands of Canary Islanders immigrated to southeast Louisiana in the late 1700s and formed Spanish-speaking settlements in rural areas around New Orleans. The Islenos, as the Canarians were known, who settled along Bayou Terre-aux-Bouefs in St. Bernard Parish were particularly prosperous. According tothe Los Islenos Heritage and Cultural Society, Terre-aux-Bouefs farmers “provided the New Orleans market with the majority of garlic, onions, beans, potatoes and poultry consumed in the city in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.”
(Last summer, my colleague Bob Marshall wrote an excellent series about the declining fortunes of these communities.)
Besh said he and Landry want to draw on the lesser-known Islenos culinary tradition at the casual seafood restaurant, which is named after the lake both Louisiana natives grew up fishing.
Landry left Galatoire’s last spring to join the Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board. The two chefs are longtime friends who, according to Besh, have discussed going into business together for some time.
“It’s going to be Brian’s restaurant, the same way I opened a restaurant (Domenica) with Alon,” Besh explained. “The timing is right, and (Landry) is obviously passionate about seafood. For me to play that role to support him to achieve this is something I really want to be doing right now.”
Borgne’s opening will lag behind the Hyatt’s by a few months. The hotel is slated to reopen October 19 following a $275 million redesign and restoration. When it does, it will also feature the restaurants 8 Block Kitchen & Bar, a New Orleans-style breakfast and lunch place that will also serve bar snacks at night; and Whole Hog Café, a barbecue place that will cook its meat in a 2000-pound smoker and provide sandwiches to the hotel’s other food outlets.
By: Brett Anderson