It is amazing what smart people with good intentions can do to increase tourism. A few years ago, New Orleans was discussed with sadness and tears and pity parties. We wondered how this formerly over-the-top tourist extravaganza could ever regain its footing. From Acts of God, to incredibly poor politics, it looked like the glory of New Orleans was going to be a historical study for academics. Culinary artists, gourmets, gourmands, and oenophiles were going to have to take their tastes elsewhere… New Orleans was no longer an option.
Fortunately the city that heralds “Let the Good Times Roll” did not hear the lamenting sounds of outsiders. Business people and political leaders picked themselves up from the debris of Katrina and developed an extravagant city that is flush with good food, good wines, great shopping, interesting museums, and a joie-de-vivre that is constantly in your face. Children running through the streets and hotel lobbies are happy; parents are jubilant; and seniors stroll blissfully along the streets, holding hands, kissing over drinks, and partying through to the following morning.
This third in a multi-part series, “My Take on New Orleans,” will, hopefully, capture some of the joyfulness that makes New Orleans a destination that is selected by choice and not by chance.
New Orleans. Where Chefs are Kings.
If you recently stayed at the Ritz Carlton in St. Thomas, then you are familiar with the fine dining experience created by Vincent Russo. This Jamaica Queens, NY-born chef graduated from South Side High School (1989) and was inspired to start on a food–focused journey by working in his fathers’ pizzeria in Rockville Centre, New York, and then refining his culinary skills at the NY Restaurant School (1994). Since then, he has been associated with hotels in the Turks and Caicos, California, and New York. He has consulted with the Millennium Hotels, and develops culinary operations for new Ritz-Carlton properties. In June 2011, he joined Ritz-Carlton New Orleans hotel as the Executive Chef where he directs M bistro, the Davenport Lounge, banquets, in-room dining, garde manger, pastry, as well as the employee cafeteria and spa café. Guests seated at a Russo-inspired dining event will be delighted with his on-premise made breads, desserts, and ice creams.
This culinary star takes great pride in starting the NOLA Goes Pink program that organizes New Orleans restaurants as a fund-raising vehicle for the Susan G. Komen for the Cure charity. During the month of October, the restaurants that Russo organizes donate 10 percent of their profits to this charity. These Big Easy restaurants also provide special prix fixe menus to support breast cancer awareness and research.