Photo: Sarah De Heer, AOL
Last week we caught up with New Orleans chef John Besh at Food Network's South Beach Food & Wine Festival. Since he's juggling so many projects -- a new cookbook coming out in the fall, a TV show starting in April, managing his six restaurants and focusing on his foundation -- we didn't know where to begin! So we reached out to our dedicated Slashfood Twitter followers and asked: "What would you like to know from John Besh?" The response was great, and we've got the answers to seven of his favorite questions.
@DrinkerX asked: What was his favorite dish to eat growing up as a kid?
JB: Speckled trout sautéed with brown butter -- I can still smell it. You could hear when mom squeezed the lemon over the fish and it sizzled. With toasted almonds -- [shakes his head] -- the whole thing is so good.
@kbGiltCity asked: I'm having my bachelor party in NoLA during Jazzfest. What's the BEST food at Jazzfest? I was told soft shell crab po boy?
JB: My favorite po' boys? That's a toss up between a fried oyster fully dressed or a fried soft shell crab fully dressed, both from Parkway Tavern.
@THeChefatSolago asked: Homegrown hot sauce or store-bought...and if store-bought what brand?
JB: Definitely Tabasco. It's my go-to hot sauce.
@Golfnfashion asked: If he had to choose only one knife, which would it be? Size?
JB: The one utility knife I would have to have is a 10-inch knife. It would get me through all the heavy prepping.
@BayouSaint asked: Where is your favorite place to eat red beans and rice in New Orleans?
JB: Home. If I can't be home, I'd have to say Willie Mae's Scotch House -- they do a great red beans and rice along with their fried pork chop.
@nuvochef asked: What is most lacking in culinary graduates today? Where should the focus in culinary school be to produce chefs he would hire?
JB: I think culinary students today are armed with much more knowledge than they've ever had. So much at their fingertips, so many tools. The internet has allowed such free exchange of ideas that it's absolutely incredible. The only thing I would stress is that a work ethic has to go hand-in-hand with all that knowledge the first day on the job. There so much media focus on culinary arts -- on chefs in particular -- that some forget their roots. It's a service industry job that never stops -- you're working with other people. You need to bring that work ethic and that love for service into the kitchen.
@wickedlysharp asked: With all the recent media appearances/events/whirl - which project outside of your restaurants & books was your favorite?
JB: Our foundation, The John Besh Foundation. In particular, we started a full scholarship for minority applicants, trying to bring them into the kitchen. I live in a predominantly black community, however, we have very few African-Americans in our kitchens. There's a stigma there that I want to help break down, and part of that is education. If we can help change the lives of a few people, than I've done my job.
Check back in next week when we talk to John about his new cookbook (My Family Table) and TV show (John Besh's New Orleans).