Preparations for Super Bowl XLVII crowds are underway throughout the properties in the Besh Restaurant Group (www.chefjohnbesh.com). But in 2002, the last time New Orleans hosted the Super Bowl, chef John Besh was focused solely on his first restaurant, Restaurant August, which had opened the previous summer. Since then, Besh has become a well-known ambassador for New Orleans food and has participated in many Super Bowl culinary events in other host cities.
Take us back to the last Super Bowl in New Orleans. What was it like at August then?
Besh: I didn't know what to expect. We'd only been open a few months and we were still working out the kinks. It was just an avalanche of celebrities and business that we didn't fully anticipate. Suddenly you have Troy Aikman walking through your kitchen, Bono is having a private dinner upstairs, John Madden is coming in and saying "Yeah, we'll book the wine room." You just have to be prepared for that level of business.
Do you have any special menus in the works this time?
B: We have (private) events booked where we'll be preparing New Orleans food and also food from the cities of the teams playing [in] the Super Bowl. So we'll be watching the post-season, unfortunately without our Saints ... to see what we'll be cooking.
Do you think the local hospitality industry is ready for the event?
B: I've been to Super Bowls in other cities, and logistically they just can't get it together like we can here. Because of Mardi Gras and big bowl games and everything else we close streets for, people know how to get around. That's important for the people working for you and the people who supply us with all the things we cook with, too. We're working with our crabbers now to make sure we'll have enough lump crabmeat for the week for those quintessential foods people coming here will want to eat. People have been planning this for months. — IAN MCNULTY