Interview with Chef Drake Leonards at Chef John Besh’s Lüke Restaurant at Hilton New Orleans, Louisiana!

NOLA New Orleans Taste America 11Follow Me Foodie to Chef John Besh’s Lüke at Hilton New Orleans, St. Charles Avenue!

First off, what a gorgeous hotel. The Hilton New Orleans on St. Charles Avenue is part of the Historic Hotels of America properties, so there’s character to the building. The 1920’s hotel was restored in 2007 and renovated in 2014, and the modern renovations are fresh, chic, and urban without taking away from the historic elements. It’s a beautiful design which balances original charm and modern elegance.

I had the pleasure of staying here during my tour with Discover America in New Orleans, Louisiana. The tour started in Missouri, St. Louis (Follow Me Foodie to St. Louis) followed by Kansas City (Follow Me Foodie to Kansas City, Missouri), and finished here, and I must say it was my favourite Historic Hotels of America property of the three cities and places I stayed. From the hospitality and service to the comfortable and clean rooms, it was a place I would stay at again and recommend.

What’s just as good, is the hotel restaurant too! I know. When do you ever get to say that? Well depends where you are and not every hotel restaurant is boring and catered to tourists, this one is legit. This on is a Chef John Besh restaurant.

A home grown celebrity chef doesn’t make a restaurant good or worth visiting, but Chef John Besh has undoubtedly influenced the New Orleans food scene in a positive way. He’s one of the pioneers and I was pleased his restaurant Lüke was conveniently located at the same place I was staying – the Hilton New Orleans on St. Charles Avenue.

Photos by Diana Seto.

Interview with Chef Drake Leonards at Chef John Besh’s Lüke Restaurant
NOLA New Orleans Taste America Hilton Luke 02

Although I was not able to get an interview with the ever-so-busy Chef John Besh himself, I was able to meet and interview his right hand – Chef Drake Leonards. Chef Leonard has worked at Besh’s restaurants since he was 15, so that’s some major commitment and loyalty.

1. What are 3 underrated restaurants in New Orleans worth flying for?

Bon Temps Cafe, Tan Dinh, and Middendorf’s

2. Most overrated Louisiana specialty?

I would have to say chicory coffee is an overrated Louisiana specialty. Historically, chicory was used to extend the shelf life of the coffee not to make it taste more delicious.

3. What Louisiana specialty do you wish tourists could learn to appreciate?

Raw oysters and crawfish are two specialties that I wish everyone would appreciate! Some of our guests have an idea that gulf seafood is dirty. It’s been given it a bad stigma. They are both so darn delicious!

Chef John Besh’s Lüke Restaurant at Hilton New Orleans, Louisiana!

NOLA New Orleans Taste America Hilton 04I was hosted at Lüke’s for dinner which opened in 2007. It is Chef Besh’s homage to the great old Franco-German brasseries that once existed in New Orleans.

The state is known for Cajun and Creole cuisine, and Franco-German brasseries feature Creole cuisine. Creole cuisine is hard to define, but it’s a mix of European (French, Spanish, German, Italian, Irish) with perhaps some African or Native American influences. It originated in Louisiana, so if you’re a food enthusiast, this is a good reason to visit alone. You can’t get any closer to authentic than this.

NOLA New Orleans Taste America Hilton 09Dinner at Lüke’s is just like the hotel in style, a balance of historic and modern. They have many Louisiana Creole specialties and “tourist staples”, but refined versions of them. It’s updated comfort food and recipes that still pay tribute to original dishes and culture. The ambiance is lively without being too noisy and it’s accommodating to all ages without being a typical “family restaurant”. It’s a safe menu which appeals to the general public, and showcases fresh seafood well.

NOLA New Orleans Taste America Hilton Luke 03I started with a seafood platter, and as a West Coast girl from Vancouver, BC, I have no problems eating them raw. New Orleans is known for their chargrilled oysters and it definitely is not as common to feature them raw. Locals do not really prefer them this way, as Chef Leonards mentioned in his interview, which is kind of disappointing because they are delicious raw. Regardless, each to their own. They also serve raw oysters with saltine crackers because locals prefer to contrast the texture of the raw oyster with something crunchy. I was actually really surprised and it became part of a “did you know” fact.

NOLA New Orleans Taste America Hilton Luke 04Pate Of Louisiana Rabbit & Chicken Livers – perfumed with truffles, country bread croutons – a delicious and simple appetizer. It’s a Chef Besh staple,

NOLA New Orleans Taste America Hilton 1 02If you’re visiting during soft shell crab season, order the Soft Shell Crab “BLT” – Benton’s bacon, butter lettuce, cherry tomatoes, and toasted brioche. So good! 

NOLA New Orleans Taste America Hilton 1 03And if you’re visiting any other time of the year then order the Jumbo Louisiana Shrimp “en Cocotte” with roasted jalapeño cheese grits, andouille and green onion sausages. It’s another staple on the menu.

NOLA New Orleans Taste America Hilton Luke 01Crispy Brussels Sprouts – Marcona almonds, Espelette honey, Progress Milk Barn cheese

NOLA New Orleans Taste America Hilton 05Brendan’s Bread Pudding – vanilla bean ice cream & hot buttered pecan sauce

NOLA New Orleans Taste America Hilton Luke 06House made peach sorbet

NOLA New Orleans Taste America Hilton Luke 05Steamed Chocolate – chicory, cocoa nibs, salted caramel ice cream

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