Michael Sichel trained and worked in restaurants in France, California and his native New York before coming to New Orleans in 2005. Initially he was the chef at Indigo, but that promising Mid-City restaurant never reopened after Hurricane Katrina. In the years since, he worked at 7 on Fulton, the Grill Room and other local dining venues before he became executive chef at Galatoire's Restaurant (209 Bourbon St., 525-2021; www.galatoires.com) last fall. Earlier this month, Sichel and chef John Folse of Restaurant R'evolution traveled to London to cook for U.S. Olympic athletes and their families in a BP-sponsored trip intended to promote Gulf seafood. Sichel, Folse and six other regional chefs used Gulf seafood at the London events.
What did you take away from your experience cooking at the Olympics?
Sichel: The assembly of athletes was amazing. Here are people who carry a nation on their shoulders when they're there, and for them to be so grateful to us for coming and serving them was just kind of shocking, you know? That's just what we do in the hospitality industry, but here are these Olympic athletes doing what they do, and they made us feel like we were giving them this great gift. We came out of there feeling like we rocked it. Gold medals everywhere. Happy people.
Galatoire's is famous for keeping its traditional menu the same generation after generation. What's that like for a chef coming from a more contemporary culinary background?
S: I know people are skeptical, saying, "How's Michael going to fit in there?" I fit in because it feels like home to me. I'm pleasing my customers because of my efforts. It's a celebration here, and there's an incredible spirit. Galatorie's is traditional, and it's unique because of that tradition. Everyone is doing something different now and trying to be unique. I'm happy to do what we do and stand out by doing that well.
It sounds like you've found a different sort of satisfaction there.
S: No matter where I'm at, people come up to me and tell me their stories about Galatoire's. It's great to be associated with such an epic restaurant that people relate to like that. — IAN MCNULTY