New Orleans is a city filled with passionate, diverse citizens; our love for our city unites us. There are so many ways that each of us contributes to New Orleans and so many ways that tourism affects each of our lives. Recently we sat down with one of our fellow New Orleanians to get to know more about how cuisine and tourism affect the lives of citizens from all different industries and areas in our wonderful city.
Austin Kirzner is Executive Chef at Red Fish Grill in the French Quarter, and he has been preparing to compete in Gambit’s Emerging Chef’s Challenge this Wednesday, August 27. Being an incredible local culinary talent, Kirzner was chosen as one of the 15 finalists for this chefs competition and will be cooking up his best to vie for the $1,000 prize and the glory of being number one. He took some time to chat with us about his work, culinary arts and cuisine, and tourism in New Orleans.
How long have you lived in New Orleans?
I was born and raised in New Orleans, just like my family who has deep roots going back about five generations. The history and culture of this city is ingrained in my life and I am so proud to call it home. My experiences growing up underfoot in my mother’s kitchen, fishing with my father, and starting my culinary career in the French Quarter all led me to the place I am today!
What do you love most about your work?
The greatest love of my job lies within my passion for food. How lucky am I to be able to get imaginative with the freshest ingredients every day? And the people… I am so appreciative of the wonderful local purveyors that supply us with the bounty of the region every day at Red Fish Grill. They, along with the skilled and professional team in the back of the house, are reason to get up every day.
Why is the culinary scene in New Orleans so unique?
The people of New Orleans, myself included, are so fortunate to have a variety of Gulf seafood right at our fingertips. From the boat to the kitchen, right to the plate, our proximity to the source lends the most incredible, fresh proteins. Also, you can look to the evolution of our cuisine from immigrants that traveled to New Orleans though its rich history. French, Spanish, Italian, Irish, German, and African — each of their cultural influences has created a melting pot of styles blended together to bring about dishes so unique they can’t be found anywhere else in the world!
How does an event like Gambit’s Emerging Chefs Challenge benefit our city?
Gambit’s Emerging Chef’s Challenge is an opportunity to recognize and bring together the young up-and-coming chefs from around the city. It allows us to express ourselves through our individual culinary skills and approach to cooking to an audience who appreciates food and a good old friendly competition.
Why is our national (and international) reputation for having incredible cuisine important for our city?
New Orleans cuisine is a driving force in tourism, giving visitors and locals alike a vast assortment of diverse culinary options that would be challenging if not impossible for other cities to replicate. The cuisine in New Orleans truly helps to put us on the map and keep us top-of-mind for visitors planning their next vacation. I find it interesting how many visitors I meet in our restaurants who plan their entire trips around where they are going to eat followed by what they will do and see. We must be doing something right!
How does our thriving tourism industry affect seasoned and up-and-coming culinary professionals in our city?
Tourism affords all culinary professionals the opportunity to promote their gastronomic style and the entire experience of dining within their restaurants to a broader audience. I love having Red Fish Grill act as a vehicle to introduce those outside of our city’s borders to the French Quarter and all that is New Orleans!
What do you think New Orleans and the culinary landscape of our city would be like without tourism?
Tourism plays a vital roll in our city, which I have learned first hand working in the French Quarter. We welcome tourists from every corner of the globe and all walks of life, which adds to the cultural richness of our city that wouldn’t be the same without them. They bring us art, music, food, education and inspiration to try new things.
What would you like to see New Orleans accomplish in the future?
I would like to see New Orleans continue to add to our ever-growing food scene, to be on the cutting edge of new cooking techniques, and to become the trendsetters for what’s new and fresh in the culinary world.
What do you love most about this city?
What I love most about New Orleans is the hospitality — it is unmatched, something you can’t find anywhere else. I have visited many other cities and have wonderful memories, but there’s nothing like coming home to the welcoming people of New Orleans.
NEW ORLEANS WILL…
raise the bar!