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Feb 14, 2011 10:55 AM

Large Group Dining - with Chef's attention

I'm hosting a dinner for about 60 people in August, and looking for a venue that can accomodate that many - even if we have to rent the entire restaurant.

I'd like to go somewhere that we'd get special attention from the Chef, perhaps even a cooking demonstration to accompany a tasting menu. Suggestions?

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  1. Offhand, I would say Calcasieu is your best bet. But If money is no object, I am guessing almost any restaurant in the City could accommodate in some way, especially in August. I have not heard of anything quite like that being done myself. How wedded to a cooking demo are you? That could be a deal breaker, although, what how complicated is a table and a hot plate? Are you familiar with the City, any restaurants jump out at you? If so, some might think of comparables. For some reason I am thinking Redemption might be a good venue. Its in an old church, I believe they already have provisions for live music, the demonstration could be conducted at the altar. Worth a gander. Wish you luck.

    1 Reply
    1. re: CharlieH

      I"m not wedded to a cooking demo, but I'd like some kind of interaction with the chef. It's a dinner coinciding with an annual conference, so I'm looking for something that will set this apart from other years and not just be a room at a great restaurant. Something that had a specifically New Orleans flair. I'm not from the area, so don't have any comparables to go off of.

    2. I have had the pleasure of watching Paul Prudhomme cook at a reception in San Francisco for 300 or so people. He is a master showman who keeps up a patter with the guests the entire time and totally charms them. I'd inquire about Chef Paul's place. I don't think you'll be disappointed.

      2 Replies
      1. re: Big Easy

        Thanks for the insight. I like K-Paul, but i'd read some rather negative things about the place recently on trip advisor, so I had been scared off.

        1. re: One Couples Kitchen

          I'm not sure that the detractors should be embraced. Some highly trusted contributors give Chef Prudhomme a thumbs up. I have not been in some years, but others, who I trust, have, and still offer recommendations.

          Now, can the restaurant seat 60 comfortably, and can Chef Prudhomme do the demo? Those would be questions to ask.

          I do have another place to look - my wife flew in a chef from NOLA for two of her King's Day parties. I am at a loss for his name. He founded a culinary institute in NOLA, and I will get the info. At both parties (one for 250 at our home, and one for 400 elsewhere) he conducted cooking classes for the guests. If his culinary institute is still gong (this was post-K, but some years ago), he would be a likely candidate.

          Sorry that my memory is failing me now, but then I did declare "wine-thirty" early tonight...

          More to come, as soon as my wife returns from a board meeting.

          Good luck,


      2. check out
        Chef Duke is on local TV and is personable. There is a private room that could accommodate.

        The Buds are a lively bunch and do demonstrations at a lot of events. The St. Charles Ave.location has a few private rooms from which to choose.

        Cafe Giovanni
        117 Decatur Street, New Orleans, LA 70130

        Zea Rotisserie and Grill
        1525 Saint Charles Ave, New Orleans, LA 70130

        1. Agree Calcasieu is a good option. Commander's might be able to arrange something, they're very accommodating and Chef Tory McPhail is great in and out of the kitchen. But the one that came to mind right away is the New Orleans Cooking Experience. The venue is lovely and unique, they have a cooking school, as well as catering services so you could arrange some sort of combo. Frank Brigtsen and Leah Chase teach there regularly -- both are noted chefs and terrific raconteurs. The only complication is that they will be moving later this year (the compound has been purchased by the Joan Mitchell Foundation and will become an art center). After August, I believe, but make sure they won't be in the midst of construction or other havoc.

          1 Reply
          1. re: MoonpieLover

            I've had functions for 20 and 30 people at Calcasieu, can't be beaten. Varied menu, they are extremely flexible, good food, good service, priced right--and get a whole roasted suckling pig as the centerpiece!

          2. Though there was little to no chef interaction, Broussard's hosted an event for about 250 with cocktails/wine on the patio, and then a sit-down dinner, with the full AV productions. It had been a long time, since we last dined there, but had nothing but positive comments.

            Now, we do similar to what you are looking for, BUT in Phoenix, or San Diego, and with smaller groups. Still, if a chef has the room to accommodate you, and knows in advance of your desires, they will likely be able to find a way to make it happen.

            We do similar with groups of 40 - 50 with wine dinners for the International Wine & Food Society. We work out an off night, and the chef/owner closes the restaurant for us, as we fill many. In our particular cases, we usually have a winemaker, an importer or at least the distributor in attendance.

            We also host cooking/dining events, with local chefs, but again, with smaller groups, and often in our home. Nothing like a world-class chef holding a hands-on cooking class, and then sitting down with a dozen "would-be chefs," to sample what we just made. In those cases, we order monogrammed aprons for each guest.

            Wish that I had a link to just what you are looking for, and not just dancing around the requirements (even geographically). The first call that I would make would be to Chef John Besh. We've done some great cooking events with him, and he's very good, plus entertaining. Knowing that he owns several restaurants, he might have just what you want. Next, I'd contact the Emeril Lagasse empire, and ask. I think that you stand a bit better chance of getting Chef Besh, than Chef Lagasse, but if the actual chef was either's sous-chef, if the event is great, who'll complain. After all, each was a sous-chef at one period in their careers.

            Good luck, and maybe someone will have just what you want, with a phone number.


            Emeril's Restaurant
            800 Tchoupitoulas, New Orleans, LA 70130

            2 Replies
            1. re: Bill Hunt

              How about Gabrielle. That seems perfect. Greg and Mary Sonnier are delightful, takinf my vote for Calcasieu, no assurances that Link would be on hand there. You know who will be cooking for you at GAbrielel.

              1. re: CharlieH

                Have not dined there, so cannot comment.