John Besh is a native of southern Louisiana and has raised the bar for fine dining in New Orleans. With nine restaurants (eight in New Orleans), Besh is celebrated both locally and nationwide.
His online bio says it all:
From the outset of his career, Besh’s talent and drive have earned him continuous kudos: Food & Wine named him one of the “Top 10 Best New Chefs in America” and his flagship restaurant August has featured on the late great Gourmet magazine’s “Guide to America’s Best Restaurants,” and “America’s Top 50 Restaurants.” Local publications keeping close tabs on the dining scene, like The Times-Picayune and New Orleans City Business, have applauded all his other restaurants as they’ve appeared and won the hearts and palates of discriminating diners. He won the James Beard Award for Best Chef of the Southeast in 2006, and was awarded Food Arts’ Silver Spoon Award in 2009 for revitalizing the culinary legacy of New Orleans.
Besh’s restaurants include August, Besh Steak, Lüke, Lüke San Antonio, La Provence, American Sector, Soda Shop, Domenica and Borgne. The former U.S. Marine has also found time to write two cookbooks — My New Orleans in October 2009 and My Family Table in November 2011.
On a flight to somewhere, Besh took the time to answer…
SW: What are your biggest strengths and weaknesses in the kitchen?
JB: I love to eat and I love to cook, but if I’m not careful I tend to overanalyze and make things too complicated.
SW: What is your favorite ingredient to cook with and why?
JB: Changes with the season, although right now it’s wild crawfish. I live for each season – nothing says Louisiana spring better than crawfish.
SW: What do you enjoy doing outside of the kitchen?
JB: Hunting, fishing, daddy, husband, boating. Basically anything with an -ing.
SW: Outside of your own, what is your favorite restaurant/dish in New Orleans?
JB: The ban cuon from Ba Mien, the jellyfish salad at Kim Son, the chicharron and cheese pupusa at Divino Corazon and the crawfish bisque at the Bon Ton. All tied for first place.
SW: You have nine restaurants now. How many more until you take over the world?
JB: Don’t know. I thought after the first one I’d never open another restaurant. But I love the creative process and I love making people happy. Now it’s especially fun watching all of my protégés now achieving their own notoriety.