Eater, the go-to website for foodies and other people who eat, continues their search for promising young talent in the service industry. Every year, they seek nominations from around the country for their “Young Guns” awards—given to bartenders, chefs, even managers, under the age of 30 or with less than five years’ experience in their respective fields. Winners are whiz kid prodigies and gifted up-and-comers in the food and beverage biz who are sure to soon make a name for themselves.
Ace Hotel has joined forces with Eater to feature certain Young Guns nominees in a series of dinners, where a chosen chef will create a menu in a select city to show off his or her culinary prowess to the public. Ace Hotel New Orleans played host to just such an event last night. Chef and 2016 Eater Young Guns semifinalist, Anh Luu, served up a fabulous five-course meal with Vietnamese and Cajun/Creole flare.
Luu, who is a native New Orleanian who now lives and cooks in Portland, Oregon, is used to combining the flavors of her Vietnamese roots with those of her beloved hometown. She named each of the five courses on her menu after a street where she used to live in New Orleans, like Chef Menteur Highway and Philip Street. And both of her cultural influences are very prevalent in each dish. Take the Lime Butter Poached Gulf Fish (aka “Bordeaux Street”), for instance. She used local grouper fresh from the Gulf and seasoned it with Vietnamese herbs and banana flowers. Luu said she was aiming to use flavors and ingredients typical of a Vietnamese noodle soup. Yet she brought it right back to Louisiana again by plating it alongside a crawfish etouffée. The “Jefferson Avenue” course, which was Braised Beef Tongue and Cheek, was a play on classic Grits and Grillades, but while using Vietnamese mustard greens and a pho-seasoned demi-glace. The best part of this particular dish (besides how great it tasted) was the actual burning candle in the middle of the plate, made out of beef fat so it was fully edible.
Other courses included a Louisiana Blue Crab Custard which guests scooped out of a hollowed-out crab shell, and Chargrilled Pork Sausage Skewers. The sausage was deliciously Cajun, but Luu encouraged eating it in a typical Vietnamese-style lettuce wrap with the butter lettuce served alongside. Finally, the meal ended with Coconut Beignets served with Chicory Coffee Ice Cream. The beignets and chicory are of course all New Orleans, but the young coconut meat inside the warm, pillowy beignets and the made-from-scratch ginger condensed milk both definitely screamed “Vietnam”.
It was a creative menu and a perfect evening. Even if you don’t make it all the way out to Portland to taste Luu’s cooking for yourself, something says this won’t be the last we’ll be hearing from this Young Guns superstar.