Chef Besh touts New Orleans' virtues after Katrina

Tue Oct 27, 2009 6:34am EDT
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By Richard Leong

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - Chef John Besh speaks with unbridled enthusiasm about New Orleans cuisine, whose uniqueness he says stems from the blending of local ingredients and various traditions in the region.

Hurricane Katrina, which devastated New Orleans in 2005, led the classically-train chef to focus his culinary identity on the region of his birth.

In his first cookbook, "My New Orleans," the 41-year-old chef includes personal tales of the city before and after Katrina.

He spoke to Reuters about the city, its history and the diversity of New Orleans cuisine.

Q: What do you want people to take away from your book?

A: "I want people to understand the soul of New Orleans. I want people to know New Orleans is a national treasure with the only indigenous urban cuisine in America. And it's a very valid cuisine. We need to pay homage to it and to understand what's behind it. Many people have this misconception that Louisiana is all about spicy food. It's anything but that. I weaved some of my stories into the book so people can understand the food and therefore the people a lot better."

Q: How has Katrina changed you as person and as a chef?

A: "Katrina made me much more focused on being a responsible citizen and steward of my city. It's made me want to pass on what I know to the next generation of cooks and next generation of New Orleanians."   Continued...

<p>An undated handout photo shows chef John Besh smiling as he holds a dish. REUTERS/Courtesy "My New Orleans: The Cookbook (Andrew McMeel Publishing. October 2009/Handout MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS</p>