Atchafalaya (901 Louisiana Ave., 504-891-9626; www.atchafalayarestaurant.-com) has a new chef, its third in about 15 months, but there's more continuity behind the kitchen changes than meets the eye.
Chris Lynch, a former chef de cuisine at Emeril's Restaurant (800 Tchoupitoulas St., 504-528-9393; www.emerilsrestaurants.com), recently took over for Baruch Rabasa, who left Atchafalaya around the new year for personal reasons.
Both Lynch and Rabasa had impressive turns at Meson 923, an initially promising but erratic Warehouse District restaurant that has since closed. Lynch was the first executive chef at Meson 923, and Rabasa was his sous chef. Lynch departed less than a year after Meson 923's debut in 2010, and Rabasa took his position. In late 2011, Rabasa left and went to Atchafalaya.
In the meantime, Lynch ran the kitchen at Jimmy J's Cafe (115 Chartres St., 504-309-9360; www.jimmyjscafe.com), a 24-hour diner in the French Quarter that marked an unconventional career turn for a veteran of high-profile restaurants in New York and New Orleans.
"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 than the cooking at Atchafalaya. But Rabasa was able to add some of his dishes while retaining Atchafalaya's popular items, and restaurant owner Anthony 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.
Atchafalaya serves dinner daily, lunch Tuesday through Friday and brunch Saturday and Sunday.