Chris Cuddihee is the general manager at the white hot Bywater restaurant Maurepas Foods, joining chef and owner Michael Doyle?an old friend from their days working together at Dante's Kitchen?before MauxFo opened. In the months since the restaurant opened, he has presided over the front of house at a restaurant that has taken the city, and the country, by storm. Eater recently chatted with Cuddihee about getting a table at Maurepas Foods and where he goes when he's not working.
It's 8 p.m. on a Saturday. What's the wait for a table for 2?
A table of two is always easier than a table of eight, certainly. And we do have the space at the bar, so a table for two is always easier than a big group. We're also open from 11 a.m. to midnight, to help with those waits. It tends to be packed on Saturday. Between 7 o'clock and 9 o'clock, that tends to be prime time. But like I said, we kept those long hours to help alleviate that.
Is there anything I can do to make the wait shorter? Cash or bribes?
Not with me. [Laughs.]
Has anyone ever tried anything like that?
I'm sure they do. We seat people pretty quickly, and just being nice is really always helpful. But we always go by the list.
Y'all have become something of a destination for celebrities visiting New Orleans. Who's been most noteworthy?
Well I always think it's so exciting when people like that come into the restaurant, but the one that got me the most was Arnold Schwartzenegger. That was pretty big. Sam Jackson and Quentin Tarantino came in while they were filming here. They were together. Arnold came in for lunch.
Tell me about your regulars?
We've had such a great response from the neighborhood?they've been so supportive. There are people we see at least once a week, two, three times a week, always trying something new and always appreciative that the menu changes. Certainly that has helped retain that clientele. And that has really been our basis and why we're able to do as well now on a Monday in the summertime as we've been able to do. It's been really great.
Have you gotten any really strange or outrageous requests?
No, at this point in the restaurant business there are few things that people haven't asked us to do, but I can't think of anything too outrageous. I think I certainly always try to be accommodating. What's hard for us is the big group of like 25 people wanting to sit down at 8 o'clock on a Saturday. That can be kind of freaky.
How'd you get hooked up with Michael Doyle, and why'd you join him in this project?
Oh. Chef and I met ten years ago at Dante's Kitchen. I remember I was working as a server when he started. The woman who would later become his wife, she and I started at the same time at Dante's Kitchen. We were both servers at the same time. And so we knew each other then at Dante's, we were together during the hurricane, with the evacuation and all that. And that helps the bond.
And so then I left Dante's and went and worked at Gautreau's for about three years and Michael stayed at Dante's. I knew that he still had this idea, and as he got closer and closer and we kept talking, he asked me to come along and be a part of this journey. It was really the best decision ? I couldn't be happier.
What's your favorite thing about working here?
I'm just so thrilled to be here and to be able to show off what we're doing and what we have. And there's always new things to learn. Really, every day there's always something new, always a new peak to reach, so I like that. At six months, we've had such great success, but I know that there's more ahead and I'm looking forward to that.
I know the menu changes regularly, but do you have any favorite dishes that have appeared on it?
The chicken leg order that comes with grits and greens, I must say, if I didn't know better I would have it every day. But because the menu changes so often, it's hard [to say].
And when you're not here, where are you eating?
I am a huge fan of A Mano, The Company Burger, Mondo. I'm still a big fan of Gautreau's, I love Sue Zemanick's cooking. That's my birthday restaurant.
And what about drinks?
I like the drinks over at SoBou, I think they're really good. When I'm out to drink, I'm generally heading to a dive bar, like when I'm uptown it's the Milan Lounge or the Kingpin. I like Pal's. Oh, and having Swirl just down the block from my house is great.
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