It’s hard to imagine a more prestigious or high-profile chef gig than running the kitchen at Galatoire’s, the legendary New Orleans restaurant, but executive chef Brian Landry gave up the plum job for a new challenge. Landry has officially became the ambassador chef for the Louisiana Seafood Board.It’s a natural transition for Landry, a born-and-raised New Orleanian who grew up fishing in the Gulf. Five years of sourcing and handling some of the finest seafood in New Orleans has also given Landry a keen appreciation for the bounty of food the Gulf supplies.
“Our menus and our culture is immersed in seafood,” Landry says. “At Galatoire’s, the amount of seafood we went through was staggering.”
Landry acknowledges that it’s a job with a mountain of challenges ahead. There’s still a major perception problem about the impact the BP oil spill had on Gulf seafood, Landry says. It’s not an issue with New Orleans diners—Landry says he was buying as much, if not more Louisiana seafood post-spill, and diners there never shied away from ordering it.
But outside Louisiana, where tons of shrimp, oysters, crab and finfish are shipped to restaurants and stores every year, buyers are more wary.
“We have the science behind it—Louisiana seafood has a clean bill of health not just from one agency but from multiple agencies,” Landry says. “Unfortunately, the perception that our seafood is tainted is still hanging out there.”
Traveling the globe to dish up his own menu of Louisiana seafood at events like the Aspen Food & Wine Festival and for ambassadors in Washington, D.C., is a dream job, but Landry may be more excited about tagging along on expeditions with the fishermen who are collecting seafood samples for research.“It’s not just someone behind a podium saying Louisiana seafood is as safe and delicious as always,” Landry says. “I’ll be out there learning firsthand about how we’re sampling the different species of fish and crustaceans.
“It’s one thing to extol the virtues of our seafood, but being personally involved in that process—seeing it all for myself—will be tremendous.”
Beyond the obvious perks of the job, Landry sees the bigger picture he’s working toward: to help preserve the culture of fishing that is so critical to the state of Louisiana.
“The fishing industry in Louisiana is a family business – oystermen, shrimpers and fishermen pass it from generation to generation,” Landry says.
“There aren’t a whole lot of people lined up to become fishermen or oystermen. If we start losing them because they’re facing too many challenges because of the oil spill, we are in danger of losing much more than the availability of fresh seafood.”