Chef Carl Schaubhut, the lauded culinary visionary behind DTB and Bacobar, and Eater’s 2017 Chef of the Year, died last night after a five-year battle with cancer.
Schaubhut was known for his fresh, modern take on traditional Cajun fare, combining regional and international flavors. He was 37.
A New Orleans native, Schaubhut credited his grandmother’s cooking as his first major influence. Schuabhut got his start in New Orleans as a sous chef at Commander’s Palace; the venue was a personal one for Schaubhut. As a child, his family would mark special occasions at the Garden District landmark, and it was there that Schaubhut first glimpsed the magical and theatrical powers of high-end chefs.
“People often say that here in New Orleans, we eat too much and drink too much...but that’s literally when things are good or bad. That’s when we eat or drink...and that usually leads to the laughter.” Schaubhut told “Louisiana Eats” radio host Poppy Tooker in an interview. “Who would want to live any other way?”
By his late teens, his interests with cooking, and specifically the business of restaurants, had firmly taken root. Unlike most contemporary high-end chefs, Schaubhut did not attend culinary school, but chose a self-taught and comprehensive, hands-on approach to the business, working in smaller stints in Baton Rouge while pursuing a bachelor’s in business management at LSU.
In his desire to learn all aspects of the industry, he worked front of house at both Wolf’s in Lakeview and Fire in the Lower Garden District. A kitchen help shortage at Fire prompted Schaubhut to consider enrolling in Delgado’s culinary arts program in the fall of 2005. However, Hurricane Katrina struck, and while waiting for the campus to reopen, Schaubhut received an offer to be the executive chef at a beachside restaurant in Grayton Beach, Florida, and left the Crescent City. In his mid-twenties, he married his wife, Alexandra. The couple has a son, 9, and a daughter, 6.
After several years in Florida, Schaubhut longed to return to his native city, signing on in 2011 as sous chef at Commander’s Palace, the same restaurant that had captivated his attentions as a child.
Schaubhut spent some two years at Commander’s before being offered the executive chef role at Cafe Adelaide. He was 31.
In 2014, Schaubhut sought treatment for what he believed was an ulcer, only to learn that he had advanced esophageal and gastric cancer.
After extensive treatments and surgery, including the removal of a significant portion of his stomach, Schaubhut was given a clean bill of health. He soon went on to found two restaurants: hip Bacobar on the North Shore in 2016 and sleek DTB in the Riverbend in 2017. Both opened to critical praise. Bacobar closed in August; DTB remains open, with chef Nathan Richard recently taking the helm.
Just weeks before DTB opened, Schaubhut learned the cancer had returned. Determined to see the restaurant through, the indefatigable Schaubhut pressed forward, somehow balancing the demands of business and family while undergoing chemotherapy and medical trips to Houston. In 2017, Eater New Orleans named him Chef of the Year.
In Schaubhut’s final months, he turned to painting as an outlet for the creative energy he had channeled into cooking and as a way to financially support his family. His pieces can be seen here.
”Painting these works of art brings me back to the days of beach living, when I was a young chef in my 20’s, father of a new baby, husband of a beautiful wife…when no one could stop us and the thoughts of cancer, clinical trials, medical bills and financial uncertainty were not even a blip on our radar,” wrote Schaubhut on his blog.