World Chefs: Damidot eases into New Orleans food scene

Tue Jan 31, 2012 5:16am EST
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By Richard Leong

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Frenchman Eric Damidot has had no trouble adapting to his new home in New Orleans, easily connecting his classical French training with the gumbo, muffaletta and other famous foods from the Crescent City.

After spending nine years in Las Vegas, the 41-year-old is the head chef at the Hyatt Regency New Orleans, which reopened last October after a $275 million renovation in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Damidot, who has two decades of experience around the globe, spoke to Reuters about New Orleans' dining scene, different cooking techniques and preparations for Mardi Gras.

Q: How would you describe your cooking style?

A: "I like to say I'm farmer-to-table. I like people to recognize the food and ingredients on their plate. I don't like to make it too complicated so you won't see the carrots or the beets. I like to make the flavors harmonious based on the season."

Q: What adjustments did you make since you moved here?

A: "The food here is very local. We have even more flexibility here than in Las Vegas. We would be using products that we would not in Nevada. There are rabbits, whole hogs, whole lambs, alligators and crawfish. Those ingredients are much more used here than they are in Las Vegas. So as a chef coming from Europe, it's a blessing to use pork shanks and braise them. It's refreshing for me after nine years in Vegas to able to do that again."

Q: So it wasn't much of a stretch for you to combine your classical techniques with using local Louisiana ingredients?   Continued...

<p>Undated handout photo of chef Eric Damidot in the kitchen of 8 Block Kitchen &amp; Bar at Hyatt Regency New Orleans. REUTERS/Hyatt Regency</p>