UPDATE 12/5: Latest dinner and Reveillon menus just added to article below.
Never in a million years did Slade Rushing think he'd have his name on a Brennan's business card. Six or seven chefs actually auditioned for the job, offering full tastings to owner Ralph Brennan, but it was Rushing, who, after emailing Brennan directly about the job and hoping to do something different than MiLa, easily impressed the restaurateur with his ability to add a light touch to Brennan's signature dishes, to upgrade them.
Tomorrow Brennan's will launch a new dinner menu, one that will test the waters of both reimagined Creole cuisine and what clientele will think about the change. Chances are they will be happy. Brennan notes, "I grew up here and from what I saw, they didn't have a dinner business. They had breakfast. We're trying to build a reputation for great business. We see a lot of great opportunity." If there's a chef to lead the charge, Rushing, who counts local legend Gerard Maras as a major influence and has honed his chops in NYC, SF, and New Orleans, is definitely the guy. Here now, he discusses maintaining tradition and pushing the boundaries of Creole cuisine while reopening The Big Pink.
What are the major changes one can expect to the breakfast menu?
It's the little things we've been working on, because it's hard to make brunch new again. We're just trying to make it fresh again. I don't have their [the former Brennan's] recipes. I've been going off classics I know. I've got a good team of chefs and cooks and just trying to honor the tradition of this place. The Eggs Houssard, Eggs Benedict and Sardou, the Bananas Foster, but at night things are going to be a little more inventive. Contemporary. We're definitely honoring that Creole tradition, but we're doing things from scratch.
Are the rumors that you're adding in new flavors, like Vietnamese, true?
Vietnamese is getting hotter and hotter here in New Orleans. I worked in New York that were really good with Asian influences, and you could see it was still restrained, but these little elements had some interesting flavors that highlighted these old boring French dishes.
I wouldn't say I'm not doing any fusion, I'm just honoring the Vietnamese culture. I think we need to be a bit more progressive and honor them as part of Creole cuisine. That's something Ralph, Terry, and the team have been really great about. We're pushing the past and future of Creole cuisine.
How do you feel people will embrace the newer dishes?
There's something for everybody. We're having a turtle soup at night. But we'll have also a smoked pigeon and seared foie gumbo as well. We're having fun with these old recipes.
So many countries bring an influence to Creole. It's exciting. I've been stuck in refined Southern cuisine for so long, but this is fun. I get to look at the cultures influencing Creole cuisine and go back to them.
Brennan's Must-Try New Menu Items:
- Vietnamese style duck, brined in lotus tea with lemongrass, ginger, roasted on the bone, has a fish sauce caramel and is served along with a steamed daikon cake. Available at dinner.
- Japanese Amberjack Crudo with pickled mustard greens. Rushing found the fermented mustard greens with oxtails at Hong Kong Supermarket on the Westbank. Available at dinner.
- Egg Yolk Carpaccio. Egg yolks cooked in a water bath with clarified butter over grilled shrimp with sweet potato crisps and andouille vinaigrette based off a popular Spanish tapas dish. Yes. Available at brunch.
- Octopus Creole. Grilled Octopus with a bit of Chaurice sausage from Creole Country (locally made). Available at dinner.
Oysters Rockefeller DeconstructedRoasted oysters with smoked chili butter and Manchego crust. Available at dinner.
- BBQ Lobster. An upgrade on the classic New Orleans barbecue shrimp dish, which Rushing actually brings from his days at Jack's Luxury Oyster Bar. Available at breakfast, lunch, and dinner.