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20 Questions

My NOLA: 20 Questions with Ryan Haigler

Ryan Haigler, seafood lover and executive chef at Grand Isle restaurant in New Orleans, shares his favorite things to eat, drink, see, and do around the city.

Ryan Haigler moved to New Orleans in 2006, attracted by rebuilding efforts in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, and he soon made a name for himself in the city’s kitchens. Haigler first worked as a sous-chef under Justin Devillier at La Petite Grocery before moving on to stints with Boucherie, Emeril’s Delmonico, Restaurant R’evolution, and Dinner Lab. Today, he serves as executive chef at Grand Isle Restaurant.

Grand Isle Executive Chef Ryan Haigler
Grand Isle executive chef Ryan Haigler (Photo: Denny Culbert)

Haigler grew up in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, where he spent his days crabbing and fishing in nearby waters. He always loved good food and worked in kitchens throughout Charleston during his teens. He later moved to New York City where he worked under illustrious chefs like Tom Colicchio and Jean Georges.

Haigler’s lifelong love of seafood shines through in Grand Isle’s menu. Diners will enjoy his unique take on classic Louisiana cuisine, which creatively combines the rustic with the refined.

Visit Haigler and his team at Grand Isle, and check out his favorite things to eat, see, and do in NOLA below.

20 Questions with Ryan Haigler

1. Who is your favorite New Orleanian, dead or alive, real or imagined?

Niki Fisk. She is a silversmith extraordinaire.

2. What first brought you to New Orleans?

After Katrina, I moved here to be a part of the rebuilding efforts. I had a lot of friends here already and wanted to make a contribution.

3. In your opinion – what’s the best neighborhood in New Orleans?

Probably Central City because of all of the growth and promise of the area, such as the new Jack and Jake’s Market, SoFAB, and the revamp of Oretha Castle Haley.

4. City Park or Audubon Park?

The Fly at Audubon Park.

5. Describe the best meal you’ve eaten in New Orleans?

There are so many! But most recently, the James Beard-sponsored dinner at La Petite Grocery, which featured chefs from New Orleans and around the country. Crispy, chicken-skin-wrapped rabbit roulade!

6. Where’s your favorite brunch spot?

Grand Isle Fisherman's Stew
Grand Isle Fisherman’s Stew. (Photo: Denny Culbert)

Dante’s Kitchen.

7. What’s your favorite po-boy? Where do you go to get it?

Debris po-boy at Mother’s, add oysters.

8. You’ve got friends visiting and it’s their first time in New Orleans – where are you taking them?

I always take people to Boucherie for epic meals. Le Bon Temps for Soul Rebels or Maple Leaf for Rebirth. Café du Monde for beignets – of course. Molly’s for frozen Irish Coffee, Cooter Brown’s for oysters, and Lucky’s for some creepiness.

9. What’s your favorite neighborhood bar?

Half Moon.

10. What is your favorite New Orleans cocktail and where do you go to get it?

Purple Drank at Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop.

11. Snowball or daiquiri? Where from and what flavor?

Snowball. Tiger Blood with condensed milk from Hansen’s.

12. Best spot to see live music?

Toss up between Siberia and Circle Bar.

13. Favorite New Orleans musician or band?

Jimmy the Saint of Endall!

14. Favorite New Orleans Festival?

Po-Boy Fest.

15. Favorite Mardi Gras parade?

Orpheus – all the pretty lights!

Grand Isle Chili Butter Gulf Fish
Grand Isle Chili Butter Gulf Fish. (Photo: Denny Culbert)

16. Where do you shop in New Orleans?

Rouses.

17. What is your favorite New Orleans museum?

SoFAB.

18. Where do you go to watch The Saints play?

Kajun’s on St. Claude. It’s just rowdy!

19. Describe New Orleans in one word.

Magical.

20. When was the last time you fell in love with New Orleans and why?

The last time I fell in love with New Orleans was probably about a month ago: sitting at The Fly, eating crawfish, drinking champagne, surrounded by great people and beautiful weather.

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