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Breakfast's family time for top chef

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NEW ORLEANS - Five or six nights a week, he's Brian Landry, executive chef, putting out the figurative fires and the classic French-Creole cuisine at Galatoire's, the landmark French Quarter restaurant and stalwart of the city's social scene.

But every morning, he's Brian Landry, husband and father of three children under the age of 5, cooking breakfast in his own Lakeview kitchen.

It's a big gap in world views that Landry, 33, seems to span comfortably.

At home, it helps that he cooks in a kitchen he designed.

Landry and his wife, Keri, built their two-story white house with black shutters and wrap-around porch after Hurricane Katrina destroyed their previous home on the same site, just blocks away from St. Dominic Catholic Church, where son Cullen, 4, goes to preschool.

By the time the house was finished in fall 2007, they'd moved 12 times and had their second child, Elise, 3. The latest Landry addition is Corinne, 4 months.

The kitchen mirrors the black-and-white theme of the home's exterior, with black tile floors and white marble countertops and white cabinets as anchors.

Tiny glass squares in the hues of the ocean, inset into a light gray subway-tile backsplash, add warmth, as does the wooden top on the small island, which was built by Richard Smith, a Galatoire's waiter who does wood work as a hobby, Landry said.

"It's kind of commercial," Landry said, noting the stainless-steel appliances. "It always feels clean."

The Viking refrigerator, hood, dishwasher and stove aren't commercial-grade, but share characteristics with what he uses in Galatoire's kitchen. The stovetop, for example, is not only gas, but also the burners are extra large.

"The gas burners are just as strong as the burners we cook on in the restaurant," he said.

The oven is large enough to accommodate the commercial sheet pans he uses at home as well.

The island provides a spot where the kids can get in on the cooking. "We have stools so the kids can work," Landry said. "I'll cut basil or oregano out of the (backyard) garden, and they can pick the leaves apart. They can whisk batter and scramble eggs."

Keri Landry is no stranger to the kitchen. "But I'm not as creative as he is," she said. She works part-time as a rehab case manager at Touro and East Jefferson hospitals and handles evening duty with the children while Landry is at work.

"His mom's a good cook," Keri added. "We eat there a lot."

"And I'll cook something they can have during the week," Landry said. "But I do breakfast every day. That's our family time."

While his days off are technically Sunday and Monday - the only day the restaurant is closed - "four Mondays in a row someone has bought out the whole restaurant" for a special event, he said. When that happens, he tries to take off another evening instead, to be home at least two nights a week.

"Sunday is a good day to have people over, for Saints games and stuff," Landry said.

Are guests' culinary expectations high? "We don't order pizza too much," he said with a grin.

At a friend's engagement party recently, he cooked a whole pig in the backyard with a "Cajun microwave" barbecue contraption that his brother built.

When they're entertaining, the marble-top bar that opens into the living area adds seating where guests can be close to the cooking flow, but it also provides some separation.

"I come from a huge family. I know everyone ends up in the kitchen. Everyone hangs out there no matter what," Landry said with a laugh. "The bar keeps people on the other side."

For their regular home dining, usually in the breakfast nook off the kitchen, the children "are adventurous eaters - they eat sushi, but not too much raw. They like Asian soups," he said.

Quick meals are made from the homemade chicken stock he keeps in the freezer. Just add noodles and veggies, and it's a kid-pleaser.

Landry's personal palate leans to foods lighter than the richly sauced dishes for which Galatoire's is known.

"A lot of the product (at Galatoire's) tends to be higher end, like big lump crab meat. We don't do that at home," he said. "But I love to fish. My brother likes to fish, so we do that a lot.

"The thing in common is the food at Galatoire's is simple food. It's not braised or slow-cooked. It's still fresh fish."

Tools of his home-cooking trade include a variety of cookware. There's All-Clad stainless and Le Creuset, the ceramic pots that Keri especially favors. "They're kind of nonstick," he said. "They're hard to burn." There's a copper stock pot and a cast-iron roux pot.

"Everything has its purpose," Landry said.

Knives are a mix of Japanese and German - Wusthof and Henckels, as well as a Shun utility knife with scalloped blade.

His favorite kitchen gadget? A microplane. "We use it a lot for grating parmesan cheese or lemon zest," he said.

"The kids are big fans of parmesan cheese," Keri added. They love it on hot noodles tossed with a little olive oil.

To design the home, the couple worked with architect Marc Schroeder after doing research of their own online.

"It was stressful, but we enjoyed it, too," Keri said. "I really wanted a window seat in the breakfast nook, and I got it. And we wanted arches," which turn up on built-in shelves and doorways as a tangible reminder of the original plaster-walled home destroyed by Katrina.

They also wanted two stories. The upstairs holds two children's bedrooms and the nursery, while the master suite with large jet tub ("It's not used by Keri and me as much as we'd like," Landry said. "The kids love it.") and a playroom are down.

"On the plans, the play room is a dining room," Keri said. "One day, it will be our dining room."


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