Last month the John Besh group reopened New Orleans’ historic Caribbean Room, a restaurant in the Pontchartrain Hotel, after a $10 million renovation and enormous anticipation from the local community.
The hotel was built in the 1920s, and in its heyday of the 1960s and ’70s the Caribbean Room was a destination for birthdays and anniversaries. Up until Hurricane Katrina hit, the room was used primarily for banquet functions, and after the storm it became a luxury apartment building. In 2013 it shifted back into a hotel — and the Caribbean Room is once again one of a handful of grand New Orleans restaurants with a long, rich history.
At the helm of the new kitchen is Chris Lusk, a longtime New Orleans chef who formerly worked at Commander’s Palace and Restaurant R’evolution, in addition to restaurants in New York City and Austin.
“This was an opportunity to bring back something so historic and ingrained in the landscape and culture of New Orleans,” he says. “It was a daunting task, but it was something they felt it was important to have available to the people of New Orleans — especially the people who never really got to experience it.”
Locals and visitors have flocked to the newly reopened space, regaling the team with memories of dining there as a teenager with their parents and grandparents. They remember the mile-high pie, the colorful murals, and the sophisticated crowd celebrating special occasions in their best suits and dresses. “It makes you feel like you’re really part of something special.”
Here’s how Chris and the team revived the space, the food, and the atmosphere of one of New Orleans’ classic restaurants, putting the locals and their memories first. [Read more…]