A New Orleans native Brian Landry worked at a string of prominent local restaurants before landing the top chef spot at Galatoire's Restaurant in 2006. In 2011, he became a traveling "ambassador chef" for the Louisiana Seafood Promotion & Marketing Board and later that year partnered with chef John Besh to open Borgne (601 Loyola Ave., 504-613-3860; www.borgnerestaurant.com) inside the Hyatt Regency Hotel. His menu melds local seafood and Spanish flavors, especially those from the Canary Islands, which gave Louisiana its Isleno population during the colonial era.
Is Borgne intended to be more Spanish or more Creole?
Landry: We're a Louisiana seafood restaurant, but one that highlights more of the Spanish influence in Creole cuisine. All the restaurants I came up through highlighted the French side of Creole, and I think the Spanish side gets overlooked. You compare jambalaya with paella or Natchitoches meat pies with empanadas and you can see that clearly. But those roots just haven't been explored as much. So for me it's fun to delve into that part. Just making a menu that's more about olive oil than butter changes a lot.
You visited the Canary Islands before opening Borgne. Was that a fact-finding mission?
L: It was an immersion. We stayed with host families and spent a lot of time in the wineries and goat farms and bakeries, and cooking at restaurants and in people's homes. The biggest surprise for me was this soup called puchero. It was exactly the vegetable soup that my mom made when I was growing up. I traveled halfway around the world to have this official dish of the Canary Islands, and it turns out I've been having it every winter of my life.
Borgne is practically next to the Superdome. How do New Orleans Saints games affect the restaurant?
L: Initially I thought game days would just bring a big bar crowd in here, but we open early for the home games and serve the whole menu and people come to eat as much as they do drink. Just like everywhere else in town, if the Saints win you get people coming right back in after the game, but if the Saints lose everyone just goes home. The business directly correlates with how the Saints do on the field.