Four Seasons and New Orleans: An Unlikely (and Tasty) Combination

 

As an established global brand, Four Seasons conjures up images of high-end luxury and pampering – not necessarily the first thoughts that come to mind when one mentions New Orleans. Yet the intersection of the two is now entering its second year, and the unlikely pairing is doing quite well so far.

This is particularly true of the two restaurants in the still-new Four Seasons New Orleans, and the fact that they are the products of local chefs is a key factor in the success. Chemin a la Mer is a Donald Link creation, offering panoramic views of the Mississippi River as a backdrop for its Louisiana-based, Gulf Coast and French influenced cuisine.

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Miss River is the newest Alon Shaya endeavor, serving classic New Orleans dishes with some extra flair. And while both are unmistakably Four Seasons operations, they also both exist comfortably within the larger New Orleans restaurant pantheon.

“As a brand, Four Seasons always works to partner with local communities everywhere they go,” said Nicholas Owen, Director of Food and Beverage for Four Seasons New Orleans.

One important aspect of this for the restaurants is using local suppliers as much as possible. The chefs themselves draw on longstanding local connections to stock their kitchens, and Link even uses bacon from another of his enterprises, Cochon, in dishes at Chemin a la Mer.

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Needless to say, no small number of local chefs were interested in the possibility of a Four Seasons location. Owen explained that key to choosing partners was “making sure they shared the Four Seasons values, everything from quality of service to how they treat their employees.”

This last point is something that Owen believes is an important benefit that his company brings to New Orleans.

“We hire the best possible staff to begin with, them take them to a higher level through our training,” he noted. “They also get the opportunity to travel the world within Four Seasons, then bring that experience back to New Orleans.”

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For example, as the area recovered from Hurricane Ida last year, local restaurant staff were kept employed by augmenting operations in other places; this also happens during slow times of year here. Some of these current bartenders and sous chefs will likely comprise the next generation of food and beverage proprietors.

Another way that Owen believes Four Seasons brings extra value to New Orleans is via the worldwide clientele it attracts.

“New Orleans is known as a food and beverage city, and people come here to eat and drink and have fun,” he observed, adding that many of the hotel’s guests are first-time visitors to the city who are drawn by the brand. “Four Seasons brings them to someplace new for them. They may not have considered New Orleans as a travel destination in the past. They come here for leisure, but while they are here, they learn more about the city, and they see business and conference opportunities.”

Similarly, many guests experience the famed area cuisine at the hotel’s restaurants first, then inquire about other local restaurants where they can have comparable experiences.

Owen added that domestic travel remains elevated as the pandemic lingers on, which creates even more opportunity for Four Seasons to attract people to New Orleans. In addition, the hotel is hosting a significant number of New Orleans and Louisiana residents who are opting to go the “staycation” route.

Whether arriving from Gretna or Greece, visitors are clearly enjoying the two in-house restaurants. Owen described the ground-floor Miss River as “Shaya’s interpretation of the food that made New Orleans famous,” citing menu staples such as red beans and rice, fried chicken and duck gumbo. The setting is warm and lightly whimsical, as exemplified by a “Food Stage” near the middle of the establishment. This butcher-block-style table is where the chefs do some of the more visual food preparation, making dinner its own show.

Up on the fifth floor, Chemin a la Mer melds Louisiana, Gulf Coast and Caribbean flavors into a variety of savory dishes. Owen noted that both chefs did considerable research for their menus; one example of this is the Chemin gumbo, which uses a century-old recipe that predates the use of file in this Louisiana staple.

While “Four Seasons New Orleans” may still sound like an oxymoron to some uninformed observers, Owen said nothing could be further from the truth. “Our visitors tell me that we are marrying everything they like about New Orleans and everything they like about Four Seasons and putting them into one great place,” he reported.

And there is no better way to taste the fruits of this partnership than enjoying a meal at Miss River or Chemin a la Mer.

 

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