by Ian McNulty
Atchafalaya has a new chef, its third in about 15 months, but there’s more continuity behind the kitchen changes than might meet the eye.
Well-known local chef Chris Lynch, a former chef de cuisine for Emeril’s Restaurant, started last week at Atchafalaya. He takes over for Baruch Rabasa, who left around the New Year for personal reasons, reports Atchafalaya owner Anthony Tocco.
Both Lynch and Rabasa had impressive turns at Meson 923, the initially-promising but strangely volatile Warehouse District restaurant. Lynch was the first executive chef at Meson 923, while Rabasa was then his sous chef. Lynch departed less than a year after Meson 923’s debut in 2010, after which Rabasa took his position. But then Rabasa too left near the end of 2011, moving over to Atchafalaya. Meson 923 later adopted a bizarrely ad hoc, name-your-own-price format before finally shutting down (more on that here from BlackenedOut.com).
In the meantime, Lynch turned up running the kitchen at Jimmy J’s Café, a 24-hour diner in the French Quarter that marked an unconventional career turn for a chef with his résumé. Originally from Philadelphia, Lynch had built his career at high-profile restaurants in New York and New Orleans before landing the top kitchen post at Emeril Lagasse’s flagship restaurant after Hurricane Katrina.
“I’ve been doing a lot of different cooking, doing Jimmy J’s, doing some private chef jobs, but now I’m excited to be coming back again and doing my thing,” Lynch says of his new post.
Lynch and Rabasa shared a similarly modern culinary style during their tenures at Meson 923, one that is markedly different from the cooking at Atchafalaya, which lately has been more like a Creole neighborhood café gone upscale. But Rabasa was able to add some of his own dishes while retaining Atchafalaya’s bestsellers, and Tocco says that’s the same approach they’ll use as Lynch begins to work his own style into the menu.
“We’re really excited to have a chef of Chris’ caliber here, but at the same time we want to keep what brought us to the dance,” Tocco says. “You don’t want to pull the rug out from what you already know people like.”
Atchafalaya serves dinner nightly, lunch Tuesday through Friday and brunch on Saturday and Sunday.
901 Louisiana Ave., (504) 891-9626