As part of Classics Week 2015, Eater NOLA is taking a closer look at what makes the most iconic dishes of New Orleans, well, so iconic. Today, Antoine's chef Michael Regua talks to Eater about why the restaurant's dessert favorite Baked Alaska is a Try Before You Die Dish of New Orleans.
What's the origin of Baked Alaska?
You know Baked Alaska is a dish that's been around many years, not just at Antoine's. As you know if you ever go on a cruise ship they can do a Macarena dance with the Baked Alaska. We wanted to come up with a signature dessert that we could actually present in our own way.
Who created the recipe at Antoine's?
I've been here for 42 years, and it's always been made the same way. We encase the ice cream in pound cake, put the meringue on top, shape it, and torch it. We put a family on it. A bird's nest, babies and the mama watching over them.
We have three ladies who make the Baked Alaska. I cannot make the Baked Alaska because my handwriting is terrible. It looks like chicken scratch.
So that's why the Emeril video of you cuts out that part?
Oh, Emeril. When he was here? I'm-a let you know something about Emeril. I can do better than he can. That's one thing about chefs though. We don't do this every day. These girls do this everyday.
Why is it so popular?
It's a simple dessert. It's a tasty dessert, and it's our feature. Plus, we can make it so personalized. It could have 'Elmer & Bruce' on there, or 'Happy Birthday Maria' on there. That's what makes it popular with customers.
How many do you turn out a year?
Valentine's Day we probably do around 60 of them. That's not counting throughout the year. It's too hard to estimate. We do a lot.
What's another of your favorite classic New Orleans dishes?
Bread pudding. It's simple, but everybody is familiar with the words bread pudding.
This year marks Antoine's 175th birthday and you have a lot of events planned to celebrate. Anything in particular you're especially excited about?
We're going to New York in April, and we're going to do a special meal at the James Beard house. We're also doing something in conjunction with Delmonico's up there. That's pretty exciting. In October, we're inviting Delmonico's, for our real birthday, to come down and do a little something with us.
You can also check out the Antoine's exhibit at the Southern Food & Beverage Museum, which opened January 24, which shows off the restaurant's vintage kitchen ware and equipment including a duck press and Brulot bowls, plus old menus, table settings and more.