by Ian McNulty
The French chef René Bajeux has turned up in a few different restaurants in recent years, each time drawing interest from local diners who remember René Bistrot, the restaurant he operated in the CBD before Hurricane Katrina. After a short stay at the Rib Room, the chef now plans to revive René Bistrot in a new location, though it's one with which he’s quite familiar.
In a press release today, the chef announced that his new René Bistrot would be opening in the next four to six weeks in the Renaissance Arts Hotel, taking over its LaCôte Brasserie, a restaurant Bajeux originally helped open.
The news spells the end of LaCôte Brasserie after a nearly nine-year run, though a spokesman for the restaurant says it will remain open until the transition to René Bistrot occurs. He says the hotel has not decided on any major changes to the interior of the restaurant space. As for Bajeux’s plan for the cuisine, the spokesman says the menus will be similar in style to the French bistro fare for which the original René Bistrot was known, though with more local sourcing and Louisiana flavors worked in.
Bajeux will be representing LaCôte Brasserie with a team at this weekend’s Hogs for the Cause charity cook-off in City Park.
The Renaissance Arts Hotel is closely related to the Renaissance Pere Marquette Hotel where the original René Bistrot had been located. The two hotels are each Marriott properties, and they share the same local general manager, Frank Zumbo.
Bajeux was part of a team of chefs who first opened LaCôte Brassserie in 2003, along with Richard “Bingo” Starr. Bajeux’s understudy Chuck Subra later took over as executive chef, a position he held until late last year when he left to become executive chef at the JW Marriott.
A native of Alsace, Bajeux has earned many culinary plaudits during his career, and is recognized as one of just 55 French Master Chefs in America. He built his local reputation as chef at the Windsor Court's Grill Room and opened the original René Bistrot in 2001. After Katrina, he had a brief stint as chef at John Besh’s La Provence restaurant in Lacombe and later worked at restaurants in the Caribbean and in San Antonio, Texas. He returned to New Orleans and was named executive chef at the Rib Room last spring, though as of March he had parted ways with that restaurant.
The new René Bistrot will serve breakfast, lunch and dinner daily.