First off…John Besh! John Besh! One of the nicest guys ever to open a buncha restaurants. And he cares about using Louisiana ingredients in his food. And about the environment. *swoon*
Oh, crap, she’s out.
“Hey! Wake up! Get this in your head: he ran a want ad for staff at Luke that had brasserie spelled as ‘brassiere’ for weeks on end.”
Whoa! Okay! Where was I?
“Don’t know, except I don’t think you meant to talk only about John Besh.”
Oh, that’s true. I meant to talk about Janette’s next career move, from out of the upscale restaurant fires and into the streets.
“Well, get on with it. And sit down.”
So she’s had to close her place indefinitely. She’s selling off what she can, taking the money she gets from that, and some other funds that arrived too late, and investing in an operation out the back of a trailer. Taking the show on the road, as it were – but only within the New Orleans city limits. Lower overhead, same mad cookery skills. Can’t keep a good chef down.
Not that running food service ops out the back of a truck is anything unusual…it simply used to smack of something lower class. Check the folks selling stuff out of coolers, the backs of their vans, the trunks of their cars at the second lines. Even some grills resembling the one Janette got are in evidence as a parade passes; it’s just part of street life here when it struts its stuff. Some of that out-the-van food has become legendary in its own right – touted as countering the effects of too much alcohol, perhaps, or as providing a little homemade sweet to help keep your feet in motion. If you feed them in this town and do it well, folks will not only come, they’ll keep coming back.
Of course, there are pitfalls to this approach, and, this being Louisiana, some of those pitfalls show us and our authorities at our prejudiced worst. If someone who got flooded out wasn’t doing it themselves, or if volunteers weren’t doing it, a large number of the people who came to do the nasty dirty jobs of gutting and remediating houses were from south of the U.S. border, and some of ’em got the bright idea to bring the taqueria eats to the hungry workers. Problem is, the taco trucks overstayed their welcome in Jefferson Parish as far as the politicians there were concerned and had to get rolling elsewhere.
According to (Ruben) Leite, all he wants to do is operate a food cart, just as Lucky Dog is able to do. City officials have cited him and shut him down so many times he can’t count, and for a wide range of differing reasons.
“One day a guy comes from the Fire Marshal,” Leite says. “He asked me, ‘Do you have a fire suppression system?’ I’ve worked with trucks for more than 20 years; I’ve never see this! In New York, no place! Just New Orleans.”
He had to shell out $2,500 per truck (he has six) to install the systems. He went from having 18 employees to just four. “I fired everybody because I cannot work,” he says.
Another time, a police officer came up and insisted he was selling seafood, and needed to shut down. Apparently, it is illegal in New Orleans for street vendors to sell seafood at night. The problem was, Leite wasn’t selling seafood at all.
Sometimes, police would come up and ask him if he has paid his taxes. He keeps his information handy, just in case. A friend of his owns property on Frenchmen, a little driveway squeezed between clubs. He gave Leite permission to park his truck on the property and sell his food at night, but the city shut this down as well.
Leite likens the city codes to the Bible. “Not to disrespect the Bible; I am Christian,” he says. “But you can find anything in the Bible. You want to kill somebody? Look for something; you can find it. Same thing with city codes.”
The street life is risky, even if a cook looking for work hitches her trailer to places such as Bacchanal and cooks up several storms. Here’s hoping that Janette can negotiate the slings and arrows of slinging her cuisine out of her trusty trailer.
And as for John Besh and all his restaurants…
Oh, crap, here she goes…
…my husband has eaten in all of them. Shouldn’t there be a prize for doing that? Like, say, Besh’s cookbook?
“Or maybe some string-pulling coming from Besh if Janette runs into trouble, huh?” *eye-rolling*
Is it too late to get that into a Treme script?
“Dream on, lady.”
Update: Ray says it’s “You can’t keep a good cook down.” My bad. But Janette still has the moves.