by Ed Lallo/Louisiana Seafood New
Twenty-five years after John Folse opened his first restaurant at the foot of the Sunshine Bridge in Donaldsonville, the renowned Louisiana chef has been continually committed to the culture and cuisine of the state and the people so dear to his heart.
Folse was recently reappointed to the Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board by Governor Jindal to serve as a marketing specialist. In a special board meeting held to elect officers and review bylaws, he was selected to serve as the new Seafood Board chairman.
“The election of John as chair is certainly the right move for this board,” said board member Peter Totorich, senior director of perishables at Associated Grocers. “With his past involvement on the board, his experience will afford each of us the knowledge and guidance that will assist each of us in our evaluation of each task moving forward.”
Tommy Lusco owner of Baton Rouge Shrimp Company agrees with Tortortich. “John Folse is a great choice by the board. He has been an ambassador for decades supporting Louisiana seafood, as well as the states unique culture, cuisine and way of life.”
A Chef at an Early Age
Born in St. James Parish in 1946, the famed Louisiana chef learned secrets of Cajun cooking and Louisiana seafood at an early age.
When he opened Lafitte’s Landing in 1978, his unique marketing combined with fantastic food introduced Cajun cooking to the world. He brought Louisiana’s indigenous cuisine to Japan in 1985, Beijing in 1986 and Hong Kong and Paris in 1987.
Folse made international headlines with the opening of “Lafitte’s Landing East” in Moscow during the Presidential Summit between Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev.
No stranger to headlines, Folse has been a strong voice on the Seafood Board. His behind the scenes leadership in rallying chefs from around the world during the Deepwater Horizon crisis was instrumental in bringing worldwide attention to the plight of Louisiana fishing communities.
“John has been a great supporter of all Louisiana seafood,” said Oyster Task Force chairman John Tesvich. “I am pleased to see him in the role of chairman. His knowledge of all Louisiana seafood’s various species, combined with his marketing experience, makes him the right man for the job.”
Folse knows world markets. The international success of Lafitte’s Landing opened additional opportunities for his restaurants and operations that include; White Oak Plantation, Chef John Folse and Company, the Chef John Folse and Company Publishing and Chef John Folse and Company Manufacturing, a worldwide USDA food processor of Louisiana seafood for retail, food service and chain restaurants.
“I was proud to second the nomination for Chef Folse,” said Crab Task Force and Seafood Board Member Keith Watts. “It is important to have the experience and leadership qualities that he brings to the table as we move into a crucial time for our various seafood communities.”
Priority to Promote Louisiana Seafood Worldwide
One of Folse’s priorities over the next year as new chair will be to promote all species of Louisiana seafood on the world stage. He visions the board’s mission as promoting “all things good about the various seafood species, the fishermen and the Louisiana seafood community.”
“No one can tell the story of Louisiana seafood better than we can,” said the bayou born chef and businessman. “We have the finest seafood in the world, from finfish to shell fish to alligator, and it the charge of this board to promote it on a local, national and international level.”
“The Louisiana Shrimp Task Force has always believed in the importance of marketing our shrimp outside of the state,” said Shrimp Task Force Chairman Mark Abraham, owner of Big Easy Foods. “Chef John Folse understands the value of marketing, he knows the importance to the state and its shrimpers in marketing Louisiana Wild Caught Shrimp not only in our area but across the country.”
In 1994 the Chef John Folse Culinary Institute at Nicholls State University in Thibodaux opened it doors. It is dedicated to the preservation of Louisiana’s rich culinary and cultural heritage.
Fellow board member Frank Randol, president of Randol’s Inc., views Folse’s leadership as well timed. “He is the perfect person to calm the waters and bring us all together. He is the man on the hour. His ability to articulate the issues facing our various communities are just as well received on the bayous as they are in the Halls of Congress,” he said.
During his long career the chef has received numerous national and international accolades, including Louisiana Restaurant Association’s “Louisiana Restaurateur of the Year”, induction into the Nation’s Restaurant News “Fine Dining Hall of Fame”, the American Culinary Federation’s “National Chef of the Year.” and he has been recognized in Nation’s Restaurant News’ as of 50 influential “Profiles of Power”.
A Recipe for Success
“We applaud the selection of Chef John Folse as new chair of the Seafood Board,” said Stan Harris, CEO of the Louisiana Restaurant Association. “Chef Folse has been a leader in culinary education and has been a visionary in incorporating Louisiana seafood into his menus. His most recent, Restaurant Revolution, continues that tradition.”
“I have come to realize that no cuisine can develop or expand where there isn’t a strong foundation of regional culture and ingredients,” explained Folse about his success. “We are fortunate, here in Bayou Country, to have the very best gift that God has given anyone in ingredients destined for the pot. My philosophy on cooking is just as simple. Choose first the heritage of your people. Herein lies the spice and flavor of your very palate. Choose secondly the ingredients of your area. Herein lies the uniqueness of your creations.”
The heritage of his seafood and the ingredients to run a worldwide business are strengths that Folse’s leadership brings as chairman of the board.
“John is the perfect choice for chairman,” said the board’s executive director Ewell Smith. “ His exceptional marketing expertise, and his experience with all aspects of the Louisiana Seafood Board will ensure a smooth board transition and help lead our seafood communities into the future.”