This is Part 2 of a 2 Part Symrise Series on innovation from the Chefs and Mixologists of New Orleans
During the recent Starchefs Rising Stars event in New Orleans, Symrise held a roundtable discussion with a group of local chefs and master mixologists who discussed what inspires them to create new and innovative dishes. Among these chefs were Chef Alex Harrell of Restaurant Angeline, Chef Philip Lopez of Root, and Chef Tobias Womack of Red's Chinese. Also, in the mix were Master mixologists Jesse Carr from La Petite Grocery and Alan Walter from LOA at the International House. Emmanuel Laroche, the Vice President of Marketing and Consumer Insights for Symrise, lead the roundtable by first introducing food and beverage development in New Orleans, Louisiana.
A major topic of discussion was the struggle of being innovative while appealing to New Orleanian palate in a growing city even years after Hurricane Katrina. Many of the chefs at this discussion agreed that during Post-Katrina there was a resistance in the diversity of the food and beverage industry after the storm. There was a bonding of the people over the classic traditions of food and culture of New Orleans food and that is what helped the community to bond and rebuild the city. Years later, creativity and diversity in the food and beverage industry is now at its peak, but a lot of creole and cajun traditions are still the foundation of it all.
Chef Alex explained that "if you don't respect the traditions of New Orleans, then the people don't respect you. I grew up in kitchens in Nola so it's a part of me. I want my cooking to be more...Southern cooking is natural for me. It's sitting in the back porch of my grandfather eating watermelon." He then went on to discuss how he keeps tradition within his menu, "I prepare a Milanese at the restaurant but I serve it with MS caught rabbit instead of classically served chicken, which identifies back to tradition but with elements of my upbringing."
Chef Philip of Root discusses in upcoming restaurant plans "When I opened Root, I was scared! I was either going to do really well or just fail completely, but I have Root² and we're even branching off to open Part & Parcel, a deli located in the South Market District of New Orleans."
With more diversity and growth after Hurricane Katrina, mixologists behind the bar are finding more and more unique ingredients to add to their drinks. According to Chef Philip Lopez, he jokingly describes how Alan Walter can be seen picking unique and fresh ingredients such as herbs and ferns out in the fields of City Park such as wild coriander. Alan explains that the new demand in food and beverage is ,"searching for a healthier and cleaner taste profiles." He noticed an increase of the use of fermented fruits and Kombucha in the late year and a shift towards healthier cocktails and drinks. When the topic of healthier foods was brought up, an audience member in the group mentioned the shift of Vietnamese cuisine growing in the New Orleans area over the last few years. There's evidently a shift towards cleaner and healthier food profiles.
When the group of chefs and mixologists were asked "What would be your advice for the manufacturers and distributors of food in this area?", all of the chefs and mixologists agreed on fresher, local, and more unique ingredients. During the discussion, the limitations were balancing quality and affordability of manufacturing those types of ingredients for distribution.
In an ever-changing industry that thrives of innovation and the consumers, these New Orleans culinarians and mixologists discussed the constantly evolving flavors and developments in the corporate and consumer world.