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20 Questions

20 Questions with Commander’s Palace Chef Tory McPhail

Tory McPhail, Executive Chef at Commander’s Palace, was first attracted to New Orleans because of its food culture, history and love of celebrations. But he stayed, in part, because he found a home at Commander’s Palace.

Chef Tory McPhail in the kitchen
Photo courtesy of Commander’s Palace

McPhail grew up in the small town of Ferndale, Washington where he learned to appreciate locally sourced food and the effort that goes into food preparation. “I knew food didn’t just come from the grocery store and magically appear there,” he said. “Being able to watch it all grow gave me a passion for natural foods.”

When McPhail moved to New Orleans at the age of 19, he was hired by Jamie Shannon, the Executive Chef of Commander’s at the time. McPhail was a hard worker and quickly impressed his new boss, but after some time, he decided to pursue new experiences in locations as diverse as Florida, London and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Eventually, he returned to the Commander’s family as the executive sous chef at Commander’s Las Vegas. But Las Vegas is no New Orleans, and McPhail soon got the urge to return.

McPhail returned to New Orleans in 2002 as Executive Chef of Commander’s Palace. Since then he has been named a James Beard Rising Star Chef and Best Chef South. He has also made numerous TV appearances, including serving as guest judge on Bravo’s “Top Chef New Orleans.”

McPhail thrives on innovation and on maintaining good relationships with local purveyors. “I’m always thinking very forward when it comes to Creole food,” McPhail said.

20 Questions with Tory McPhail

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

Louis Armstrong for what he means to the city, and a close second would be Dr. John, an icon for R&B, rock and funk.

2. What first brought you to New Orleans?

I first came to New Orleans for the food – Creole cuisine is the only indigenous food in North America and knew it was the perfect place to learn my craft.

Satsuma Crusted Fish
Satsuma Crusted Fish (Photo courtesy of Commander’s Palace)

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

Uptown – it’s where I live, work and play.

4. City Park or Audubon Park?

City Park – I love watching the turtles and the freedom from the city that you feel there.

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

Any average meal in New Orleans is better than what you can get in the rest of the country.

6. Where’s your favorite brunch spot?

I’m partial to the new Boozy Brunch at SoBou, but I also really love Coulis on Prytania.

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

The roast beef with melted swiss and extra pickles at Louisiana Discount Market on Louisiana Avenue. It’s not just the po-boy that makes this place so great, but the ambiance and experience you get when you are waiting for your order. It’s got tons of character.

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

Chef Tory in the kitchen
Photo courtesy of Commander’s Palace

I’d take them for a stroll on Frenchmen Street, drive-thru daiquiris, Maple Leaf, dinner at SoBou and fishing in Lafitte.

9. What’s your favorite neighborhood bar?

When it comes to neighborhood bars, I have two favorites. The first is King Pin because it’s close to my house, and the second is the Rendezvous because it’s close to Commander’s Palace.

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

I love the Neptune Monsoon at Port of Call.

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

I love a good daiquiri – my favorite is the White Russian with an extra shot from New Orleans Original Daiquiris at the corner of St. Charles and Carrollton.

12. Best spot to see live music?

When it comes to live music, it’s hard to choose just one place in New Orleans. I really love Tipitina’s, Spotted Cat, Maple Leaf, House of Blues and Vaughan’s.

13. Favorite New Orleans musician or band?

The Radiators, Marcia Ball, Galactic, Better Than Ezra.

14. Favorite New Orleans Festival?

Jazz Fest is my favorite, but French Quarter Fest and Satchmo Fest are also a lot of fun.

15. Favorite Mardi Gras parade?

Bacchus.

16. Where do you shop in New Orleans?

When I’m shopping for food I go to Rouses. If it’s wine I’m after, I love going to the the newly reopened Martin Wine Cellar on Baronne Street.

17. What is your favorite New Orleans museum?

NOMA – because it’s in City Park and the WWII Museum – my grandfather served in the war and you feel the gravity of the situation when you are in the museum.

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

If I’m not at the Dome for the games, I love watching from the Rusty Nail.

19. Describe New Orleans in one word.

Crazy!

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

Any given day – there’s no place like it and I can’t imagine living anywhere else.

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