Chris Lusk, chef du cuisine at Restaurant R'evolution, grew up in Texas watching his grandparents make hog's head cheese and sausage. After stints working for Mario Batali at Otto Enoteca in New York City and for the Commander's branch of Brennans at Cafe Adelaide in New Orleans, Lusk has found his dream job at R'evolution, John Folse and Rick Tramonto's regal French Quarter destination, where among whimsical reinterpretations of Creole classics and caviar galore, he focuses on running an extensive and very impressive charcuterie program.
Don't think that makes him a stuffy guy, though. Lusk is one of the nicest folks around, a beer enthusiast who notes how much he loves himself some 40 Arpent brews, the fact that there are so many new, smaller restaurants opening up, and who is known to hunt for off-menu authentic Chinese around town on his days off. While R'evolution's meaty menu is a stunner, book the chef's table, and Lusk will gladly bust out some crazier dishes, like beet and beef tartare, preparations of organ meat or even a whole hog. Here now, Lusk discusses R'evolution's Pig Out board, and all things charcuterie in New Orleans.
So, what's on the board?
Housemade hog's head cheese, terrine with sweetbread and wild mushrooms wrapped in bacon, pepperoni, finocchiona, speck Italian bacon, lightly cured and lightly smoked and duck bacon: We actually have a foie gras dish with biscuits & gravy and we garnish it with the crispy duck bacon. Pork rillettes, pickled mushrooms, tapanada, peach mustard, Creole mustard and red onion agrodolce with toasted ciabatta bread. We sell a lot of these.
What's your favorite meat on board?
Hogs head cheese is really one of my favorites. I grew up in Texas, and my grandmother, she made what's called souse. It's sort of a hog's head cheese, but it's got vinegar. It's like a pickled hog's head cheese. It's kind of hard not to like all of it, but I think hogs head would be my favorite.
How did you learn to make charcuterie?
My grandfather made sausage when I was growing up. He always cooked when I was growing up and we always had that available. I the opportunity to work with Mario Batali in New York at Otto, and his father is one of the premiere salumi makers in the country. I had an opportunity to work with that program, and then coming here, it's just been... what's not to love?
What would you suggest pairing with this charcuterie board drink wise?
If you wanted to do a specific salumi, big reds and Italian reds are always good. Sparkling rosé would be great. The duck bacon would be great with a buttery chardonnay. The beauty of the meat board is that you can pair almost anything you want with it. Beer's always my go to though. With the hogs head cheese, you could do a nice Belgian white, because it has that nice citrus to cut the richness of it.
Who else in town is honoring charcuterie and sausage traditions?
Oh, we have a lot. You got the guys at Domenica. Alon and his guys are great, and actually we have similar cases [pictured above] to what they have. The guys at Ancora, all of Adolfo Garcia's guys are doing a great job. People are really taking it seriously and putting a lot of effort into it. I don't think people realize how much effort is put into it. When we make prosciutto, it's a year to fourteen months for one leg.
Even people who are doing boudin and andouille, that's so important because that's such a part of the culture here. Donald Link and those guys at Butcher. Him and Stephen [Stryjewski]. I love that place.