by: Sophie Gayot
Despite his busy schedule, I had the real pleasure of sitting down and enjoying lunch with John Besh in New Orleans at his fine dining establishment August, which made GAYOT’s 2008 list of the Top 40 US Restaurants. While chef de cuisine Michael Gulotta was preparing the delicate dishes, I was discovering the other side of the pans of chef Besh.
Besh is very concerned by his surroundings, whether it is people, the city of New Orleans or the environment. He uses produce from local farmers and fishermen for all of his restaurants: August, La Provence, Lüke, Domenica, Besh Steak, and The American Sector. That practice supports the local economy, cuts the carbon footprint, and guarantees more organically-grown vegetables. He even has his own vegetable garden in the back of La Provence restaurant, located a few miles away from the city in Lacombe. A native of southern Louisiana, he is consumed with putting the city and the state back on their feet after Hurricane Katrina (traces are still visible after five years) and the oil spill (he was part of the effort of December 1st Dine America’s Night Out for Gulf Seafood).
Besh’s book, My New Orleans: The Cookbook, is the perfect illustration of his love and passion for his roots. Seven years in the making, the seven-pound, 350-page book is more than a usual cookbook. It is full of stories, and split up by what the local culture calls for instead of typical cookbook chapters. (Read the full review in GAYOT.com’s cookbook section.) Here again, Besh is helping by giving a portion of the proceeds to Café Reconcile, a New Orleans non-profit organization dedicated to providing training and skills to at-risk youngsters so they can find jobs in the hospitality and restaurant industries.
I could not agree more with Besh, and truly hope that he and I can work on more projects together to help save the environment, which is now becoming a must for everyone.
You can click on each photo to enlarge to see dishes of restaurant August menu. All photos by Sophie Gayot.