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20 Questions

My New Orleans: 20 Questions with Chef Ben Thibodeaux

“My last name is Thibodeaux, so I think that answers some questions,” said Tableau’s Chef Ben Thibodeaux when I asked him about his culinary background. “I grew up in Lafayette, Louisiana and my family is from the heart of Cajun country. Everything we do is centered around food.”

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Chef Ben Thibodeaux

But it turns out that Chef Ben’s culinary background is rather diverse. He grew up hunting and fishing in the Atchafalaya Basin and learned to season his foods with local ingredients. He was always curious about other flavors and cuisines and knew he wanted to travel. After working in a bakery and butcher shop during high school, Ben spent one of his college years as an apprentice at Restaurant Coutanceau in La Rochelle, France. When he returned to Louisiana, he worked as head chef at Cristiano Ristorante in Houma, LA.

Ben moved to New Orleans to take a job as a sous-chef at Dickie Brennan’s Steakhouse. He later switched to Palace Café, where he worked his way up to Chef de Cuisine. “I am fascinated by the culinary heritage of New Orleans,” Ben said. “So I was thrilled when Dickie Brennan announced his plans for a new classic French Creole restaurant.” As Chef de Cuisine at French Quarter restaurant Tableau, Ben’s menu is inspired by his love of simple, bright flavors.

On October 3rd, Chef Ben will be representing Dickie Brennan & Company at the James Beard House in New York City, preparing a menu entitled – The Evolution of Creole Cuisine. This is a huge honor for any chef, but Ben laughed when I referred to him as ‘nationally recognized.’ “I’m just happy to be cooking,” he said.

Come visit Chef Ben and his team at Tableau, located at 616 St. Peter Street. Tableau is open seven days a week for lunch and dinner and for brunch on Saturday and Sunday. Call 504.934.3463 to make a reservation.

20 Questions with Ben Thibodeaux

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

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Monkey Bread Pudding at Tableau

Drew Brees and Sean Payton – the Saints have done so much for this city. But I’m also quite a Jean Lafitte fan. He was the original gangster!

2. What first brought you to New Orleans?

I started a job as a sous-chef at Dickie Brennan’s Steakhouse.

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

Uptown – I live right near Napoleon and Magazine Street. It’s where all the marching bands line up for Mardi Gras parades.

4. City Park or Audubon Park?

Audubon. But I haven’t been to City Putt in City Park yet, so it’s possible I could be swayed.

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

My best dining experiences have come from Galatoire’s, Clancy’s, and Brigsten’s. But I must say that my best meal is a roast beef and fried shrimp po-boy from Domilise’s.

6. Where’s your favorite brunch spot?

This might sound strange, but my wife and I enjoy brunching at Dat Dog. Our favorite dog is the “Bacon-Wrapped Werewolf.”

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Tableau Balcony

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

I love going to Domilise’s for a fried shrimp and roast beef po-boy. I ordered it once and they looked at me funny. But the next time I went in there, my po-boy was listed on the menu as “Surf N’ Turf.”

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

We’ll start with raw oysters at Casamento’s or Bourbon House. Then hit Dat Dog or Company Burger for lunch. Maybe Palace Café. We’ll spend the evenings hitting my favorite dive bars.

9. What’s your favorite neighborhood bar?

I love St. Joe’s.

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

The Sazerac – I think the best one I’ve had has been from Clancy’s.

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

Both! I love the Georgia Peach snowball (with condensed milk) from Sno Wizard. If it’s a daiquiri I’m craving, I get the house special from Fat Tuesday.

12. Best spot to see live music?

Carrolton Station.

13. Favorite New Orleans musician or band?

The Brassaholics.

14. Favorite New Orleans Festival?

Jazz Fest – I get to do a cooking demo every year. But when I’m not working, I’m sipping mango freezes and munching on cochon de lait po-boys.

15. Favorite Mardi Gras parade?

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Chef Ben with Dickie Brennan


16. Where do you shop in New Orleans?

I get most of my groceries at Rouses, but usually hit Langenstein’s for fish. I love t-shirts from Dirty Coast.

17. What is your favorite New Orleans museum?

Probably the Southern Food and Beverage Museum. It’s a unique project that is perfect for this city!

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

I like watching the games at home. If it’s an early game, I’ll go pick up pastries from La Boulangerie. If it’s a later game, I fire up the grill.

19. Describe New Orleans in one word.


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

As I was driving back into New Orleans after a visit with my family, my wife and I spontaneously decided to go out for oysters. It’s the simple pleasures.

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