A New Season For New Orleans
The city’s most luxurious new hotel offering is now a reality.
A native New Orleanian, Poppy Tooker has spent her life devoted to the cultural essence that food brings to Louisiana, a topic she explores weekly on her NPR-affiliated radio show, Louisiana Eats! From farmers markets to the homes and restaurants where our culinary traditions are revered and renewed, Poppy lends the voice of an insider to interested readers everywhere.
One of the world’s greatest culinary cities received a grand gift on Aug. 17, when the new Four Seasons Hotel officially opened on Canal Street. The latest of 188 properties located in 47 different countries, the New Orleans Four Seasons is situated in the historic International Trade Mart, constructed in 1968 to honor the city’s 250th anniversary. The $530 million renovation retained many details of the original design, including the iconic shape, which honors the four points of the compass, and the lobby’s stately green marble pillars and escalators.
Upon entering, visitors are sure to be dazzled by the Chandelier Bar. The show stopping, namesake chandelier is actually an art installation comprised of 15,000 glimmering Bohemian crystals. The bar’s menu features classic New Orleans cocktails and an astounding selection of champagnes by the bottle and glass. When it comes to bar snacks, the choices are as lofty as the crystal chandelier itself, with options like caviar service accompanied by heirloom milled cornmeal hot cakes and locally produced fois gras.
Chef Alon Shaya was the first New Orleans chef onboard at the new property, acting as chef/partner of both the Chandelier Bar and the Miss River restaurant, also situated on the ground level. Miss River offers a grand dining experience with food inspired by the canon of Creole cuisine prepared with the finest local ingredients. Signature dishes like whole buttermilk fried chicken are carved on a “food stage” as the sommelier station invites guests to linger while selecting wines to pair with their meal.
Shaya’s credentials include a lot of hotel centric experience, from his early days at Rio Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas to the national acclaim he received as opening chef de cuisine at Dominica, a Fairmont Hotel restaurant. During his time there, Food and Wine magazine named Dominica one of the nation’s best restaurants and Shaya received his first James Beard nomination.
Under the Pomegranate Hospitality umbrella, Shaya’s prior restaurants include the Israeli themed Saba and Safta. While Saba is a stand-alone operation in Uptown New Orleans, Safta placed Shaya back in the hotel arena. Located in Denver’s Source Hotel in the trendy River North Art District, Safta is a leased property, different from the chef/partner arrangement at the Four Seasons.
“Partnering with a luxury brand like the Four Seasons, takes our business to a whole new level allowing me to work with amazing people I look up to,” said Shaya.
That sentiment is mirrored by the Four Seasons’ other local chef/partner, Donald Link, a fierce independent who has turned down countless previous offers.
“Link Restaurant Group owns all of our other restaurant properties and I have always been reluctant to turn over control,” said Link, “but I have such respect for the brand and the people. We share the same goals and vision.
Link’s new restaurant — located on the hotel’s fifth floor — boasts an incomparable view of the Mississippi with cuisine “rooted in classic French while including the Louisiana elements we’re known for, along with great steaks and an oyster bar,” he said. Long-time friend Jimmy Buffett played a role in selecting the restaurant’s name when he phoned last summer while Link was in Paris.
“Jimmy said, ‘How about Chemin a la Mer?’” a French phrase which translates to “Path to the Sea,” Link recalled. At the time, Link was standing on the Rue de Chemin Vert, adding to the sense of kismet.
Both Shaya and Link are working closely with veteran Four Seasons Executive Chef Nicholas Owen. Owen brings almost 15 years of experience with the brand, with previous assignments in Kyoto, Seoul and Singapore. Owen oversees the hiring, training and management of the entire food and beverage operation, including both Shaya’s and Link’s restaurants. He is also responsible for hotel catering and room service.
“Four Seasons’ room service is where high tech and old school meet,” Owen said. “Guests may use our chat system or order directly from their
iPad,” but upon delivery, the amenities of white linen and polished cloches are old school all the way.
In need of a little pampered TLC? The New Orleans Four Seasons offers the pinnacle of high touch luxury right here at home.
Catch Poppy Tooker on her radio show, “Louisiana Eats!” Saturdays at 3 p.m. and Mondays at 8 p.m. on WWNO 89.9 FM.