Chef's on Boats

New Orleans has always been inseparable from the water: the Mississippi River, Lake Pontchartrain and the many nearby lakes, wetlands, rivers and the Gulf of Mexico. In order to protect the metro area from flooding, however, we have long built necessary levees, flood gates  and floodwalls. These barriers have only grown more massive and prolific in the last few decades and have had the unfortunate effect of walling off and severing New Orleanians’ connection to the water. The vast majority of people here–including those working in our beloved restaurant industry–do not have access to boats, so this once common bond to the imperiled beauty and bounty of our waterways, bayous and marsh is vanishing.

Shrimp boat off coast

New Orleans takes great pride in our legendary food, chefs and restaurants – it is one of our defining characteristics – and this naturally includes our love of seafood from Louisiana waters.

 But what does it mean when the majority of line cooks and even some chefs preparing the marsh’s bounty, have never been in the marsh? What does it mean if a restaurant’s bartenders or FOH manager have only a vague idea of the endangered local fisheries as they describe a seafood dish to the thousands and thousands of tourists coming through their doors each year?

Chefs on Boats is a first-of-its-kind program run jointly by the Pontchartrain Conservancy, the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana and Chef’s Brigade that seeks to take New Orleans chefs, line cooks, restaurant bartenders, FOH managers and culinary students out into the Louisiana marsh with coastal scientists and fisheries experts for first hand experience and education on the perils facing our coastline and fisheries.

We will provide a platform for culinary and hospitality students, professionals in many areas of food service, and scientists to learn how the restaurant industry intersects with water quality, coastal restoration and environmental impact.

This is an opportunity to connect two fields that rarely have the chance to collaborate and make an impact with individuals, especially culinary students, who may currently or one day be in a position to make responsible decisions where waste, chemicals and recyclable materials are concerned within restaurants and help educate our city’s culinary ambassadors on Louisiana’s waterways and fisheries.