Louisiana fishermen and women have a staunch ally in executive chef Brian Landry, of New Orleans restaurant Borgne. Not only does Landry (along with chef-owner John Besh) put local seafood front and center at Borgne, he grew up fishing the Gulf waters and eating crawfish boils with his family, and even earned a degree in biology (along with one in philosophy) from the University of Alabama before answering the call of the kitchen at Johnson & Wales College of Culinary Arts.
For Landry, Gulf seafood isn’t simply delicious; it’s something worth conserving and fighting for. After spending five successful years as executive chef at Galatoire’s, one of New Orleans’s most storied French restaurants, Landry joined the Louisiana Seafood Board as an ambassador chef. This just after the 2011 BP oil spill that rocked the Gulf. “The fishing industry in Louisiana is a family business—oystermen, shrimpers, and fishermen pass it from generation to generation,” Landry said. “There aren’t a whole lot of people lined up to become fishermen or oystermen. If we start losing them because they’re facing too many challenges as a result of the oil spill, we are in danger of losing much more than the availability of fresh seafood.”
What Landry does to seafood at Borgne keeps even the influences local. He salutes Spanish flavors, especially those of the Isleño community of Louisiana, whose roots are in the Canary Islands. Take Landry’s Grilled Gulf Fish, with wild mushrooms, fingerling potatoes, soubise, and pimento butter, or Oyster Spaghetti with a bit of botarga. And yes, there is gumbo that Landry has made with andouille and duck.
When Landry isn’t advocating for the fishing community and cooking up seafood, he’s busy as a board member of Café Reconcile New Orleans, a nonprofit restaurant in the Central City neighborhood that helps train students in food-industry skills, or mentoring a culinary student through the Chefs Move! scholarship program.