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Have a heart for
Galatoire's, Aug 2000
Where is he now???
Bourbon Street, New Orleans, LA
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La Belle Cuisine
"Leaving New Orleans also frightened me considerably. Outside
of the city limits the heart of darkness, the true wasteland begins."
~ Ignatius J. Reilly from 'A
Confederacy of Dunces'
Only in New Orleans
other American cities people ask ‘What do you do?’ but in New Orleans
ask ‘What did you eat?’ Kenneth Holditch had told me that an even more
pressing question is ‘Who was your waiter?’ He recounted the anecdote about
the lady from the [French] Quarter who was about to commit suicide by
off a bridge. A man caught her and pulled her back to safety,
saying, ‘Don't you
recognize me? I'm your waiter from Antoine's...’
Orleans may be the one city in the United States that is entirely devoted
pleasure, where the work ethic is blissfully missing and where locals prize
good waiter more than a stock market tip.”
Food & Wine, March 2000
Edmund White, in "Tennessee in New
“A waiter is
fired from a restaurant, a non-event most anywhere in America.
But this is New Orleans and the restaurant is Galatoire's. A popular
waiter's departure from the temple of French-Creole cooking has the
regulars up in arms and ...”
Anderson Restaurant writer
The Times-Picayune, New Orleans,
LA, July 7, 2002
1949, Kenneth Holditch* traveled with his father from Mississippi to New
Orleans for what would turn out to be a life-changing meal of trout amandine
at Galatoire's. He remembers the meal vividly, particularly what he calls
elegance and skill of the waiters.'
years after that first visit, Holditch left his job in Memphis and joined
the faculty at the University of New Orleans so he could 'live in this
and dine at Galatoire's whenever I wished,' as he explained it
in a recent letter
to the restaurant's nine-member board of directors.
*Dr. Holditch is an acclaimed authority on the literature of
the South in general, Tennessee
in particular, and co-founder of
The Faulkner Society, among other accolades.
dine he has, often at a twice-weekly pace and, for the past 20 years or
usually as the customer of his favorite waiter, Gilberto Eyzaguirre.
Eyzaguirre, 'Gilbert' to his legion of customers, was fired from Galatoire's
April 27 after a female employee filed a sexual harassment complaint
It was the second such complaint filed against the waiter by a
in less than two months.
were a story about anywhere else but New Orleans, or perhaps
but Galatoire's, that would be the end of it. Instead, it was
*~ *~ *~ *
Mon Dieu! Is nothing sacred any more? What ever happened to
tradition? This city is in an uproar. And I ain’t just whistlin’ Dixie,
y’all. The news- newspapers and radio talk shows have experienced a deluge of
indignation, both pro and con.
Here’s the thing. I understand what’s going on here. [And,
no. I am not supporting sexual harassment, okay? The man is innocent until
guilty, is he not? If the allegations prove to be valid, his
deserved. No hate mail, please!] I know whereof Gilbert’s
speak. This is the
city of my youth. I know how it feels to be
in a fine restaurant, because my mother, Gigi, God rest her soul,
had “her” waiters.
Not only at
but at the
original Brennan’s –
Owen Brennan’s Vieux Carré – as well. She and Owen were
on a first-
name basis. The highlight of my meal at the tender age of six was
being served (personally, by Owen, if you please) the most outrageously
colorful, cherry-and-grenadine-loaded Shirley Temple imaginable. With
Japanese umbrella, yet.
We had an actual relationship with these people. They were
Godsends some days, these sentinels of the civilized culinary experience. In
their great heed
to minister to our needs, to brighten our existence, they
enriched us. They were an important part of our lives, part of our extended
family. And please understand that Gigi was not “somebody”. No fame, no
fortune, just an antique connoisseur and interior decorator, a beautiful,
lady who knew how to live well. Believe you me, if Gigi
had been deprived
of her favorite waiter (especially if she believed him to
have been wrongly accused), she would be leading the pack along with authors
Kenneth Holditch and Richard Ford and a bevy of other famous, infamous and
not-so-famous supporters of the (wrongfully?) ousted Gilberto. These folks
are livid. I kid you not. But please. Do not take my word for it…
letters, many of which were written by prominent New Orleans doctors,
lawyers, judges and business people, have been posted on a
web site devoted to
of persuading Galatoire's management to rehire Eyzaguirre. The list
letter writers is impressive; Pulitzer Prize-winning author Richard Ford and
noted Louisiana State University historian David Culbert are among them…
his letter, Holditch echoes the concerns of many when he bemoans the changes
that have occurred at Galatoire's since Rodrigue, 29, became the first
family member to be named general manager and chief operating officer of the
restaurant five years ago. The most seismic of those changes was
controversial renovation that was completed in 1999. With the renovation
new dining rooms upstairs and the opportunity to reserve tables, a
in Galatoire's nearly century-old history...
viewed through the prism of Galatoire's overall makeover, Holditch
Eyzaguirre's firing ‘has made many of us ‘old-timers' aware of the fact
something drastic is afoot, a renovation not only of the physical features
of the classic old Creole eatery, but a renovation of its very soul.’ “
And just what is it, s'il vous plait, that makes
Galatoire’s so special? Where
to begin? Have a
look here, and then
perhaps you will begin to understand.
"The restaurant's food is a
testament to the virtues of trend resistance, and the kitchen's renderings
of classic French-Creole dishes are hard to surpass. It's tempting to
imagine the best of them -- trout amandine, soufflé potatoes, stuffed
eggplant, shrimp rémoulade, oysters Rockefeller -- tasting exactly as they
did in 1905, the year Frenchman Jean Galatoire bought Victor's Restaurant on
Bourbon Street and gave it his family's name.
Galatoire's is remarkably well preserved, though it actually has the feel
of being older than it is. Its majestic atmosphere is derived not just from
the tiled floors,
19th-century chandeliers, polished brass and tuxedoed
servers, but from the sense that those things extend from traditions rooted
deep in New Orleans' exotic past...
...Constancy is part of the allure, and the regulars, many of whom were
introduced to Galatoire's by their parents and grandparents, and who are now
own children and grandchildren, find comfort in the familiar
Do Gilbert's customers adore him, or what?!?! Read on...
has been traveling to New Orleans with his wife, Cathy, every six weeks
since 1968. ‘I call them eating trips,’ he said. These trips always include
or three meals at Galatoire's. For the past 18 years, the Smiths were
exclusively by Eyzaguirre.
In fact, for the Smiths, each of whom wrote a letter supporting Eyzaguirre,
finding out that their waiter isn't going to be in town for one of their
is enough to make them change their plans.
‘He's that important,’ Smith said, and by way of explanation asked: ‘You
how you feel when you're halfway through your second martini? That's
I'd feel when I'd enter Galatoire's and I'd see Gilbert.’ “
Are you having difficulty comprehending all the hullabaloo? Please understand that New Orleans is one of the few cities
in these United States where the term “waiter” still designates a time-honored
profession. We hold good waiters in very high esteem. They deserve our
respect along with our generous gratuities because they have earned them. We do not assume,
here, that one is
waiting tables in a fine restaurant between gigs, or just to
keep body and
soul together while they are doing something else for real (although surely
there are some around who are doing exactly that). No
way do we make such a
ridiculous assumption, as our experience indicates otherwise. And if
you have been blessed with the good fortune of being
meal by an excellent waiter, you know exactly what
The wait staff
can make or break a culinary experience. The good ones
(the ones who give a
hoot) know it. And so do we. These professionals
are practicing not only a
craft, but an art. They know from hospitality…
Okay. As Brett Anderson said, it was only the beginning. He
kids us not. Here is what he had to say on 26 July about the situation :
furor over the firing of a waiter at Galatoire's has grown from a newspaper
story into a theater piece in no time flat.
Times-Picayune columnist Chris Rose, a budding master of monologue-form
parodies, is directing the "Galatoire's Monologues" at Le Chat Noir on
The hour-long performance will feature a variety of local celebrities
performers giving "dramatic" readings of the letters written in protest
the firing of waiter Gilberto Eyzaguirre by Galatoire's management
... The readings will be interspersed with musical interludes featuring
songs that were written about the protest.
Admission is $5 or two canned goods; all proceeds and food collected will be
donated to Second Harvesters Food Bank of Greater New Orleans.
The 8 p.m. performance is sold out. There are still tickets for the 9:30
Call 581-5812 to reserve a seat. Le Chat Noir is at 715 St. Charles Ave.”
Now THAT’S New Orleans, y’all…
Mr. Anderson has done a fine reporting job. Unfortunately,
straints prohibit our presenting his Creole Contretemps article in
tirety. It will
be available to you on the Times-Picayunew web site only
fo for a limited time;
if you miss it there and want more details, well, we
just don't know what to tell you...
Another voice is heard:
the changes, if a person who had not been to Galatoire’s for 40 years
return, and if he looked past the ice cubes, he would not notice many
changes other than the prices. The servers are more diverse but they are
giving special attention to their own loyal customers. There are no
foods on the menu (don’t look for buffalo wing talapia fajita
pesto) but rather classic French Creole dishes.
There’s still the mood and the feel in which people- watching is as much a
of the experience as the hot French bread. Though the restaurant may
a good waiter can still make each table seem special.
And for those who do not understand why all the hubbub over a fired waiter -
being being made to feel special is something worth fighting for."
~ Errol Laborde
Laborde is editor of New Orleans and Louisiana Life magazines and producer
of the weekly news roundtable show “Informed Sources,” Fridays at 7 p.m. on WYES-TV
Channel 12 in New Orleans.]
Now. How about some
Post-Katrina Report, Courtesy of Tom Fitzmorris:
Friday, October 14, 2005
Forty-Six Days Since Hurricane Katrina
"Melvin Rodrigue, the general manager of
Galatoire's, seemed to be as much concerned about the debut of his
new cookbook--a 100th-anniversary collection
that was supposed to debut this
week--as the reopening of the restaurant. "We
decided to pull out all four
walk-in coolers and start over," he said. [Must have
been a lot of oysters
in there.] The restaurant did not have any serious damage.
We are saying
that we'll be open the first week of January."
I collared Melvin afterwards and asked him what everybody has been asking
me: what about this place in Baton Rouge. "We're doing it," he said. "It
be called Galatoire's Bistro, and it will have a two-page menu instead
five-page menu. Most of the dishes are the classics, but we'll have a
that will only be in Baton Rouge." He told me that it will open
and dinner, and that Justin Frey--a grandson of the founder--will
The location could not be revealed (the lease has not yet been
he did tell me that it will not be in the downtown area. [Galatoire's Bistro
Baton Rouge is located at 17451 Perkins Road, Telephone 225.753.4864.]
After all these reports were given, a discussion ensued about the staffing
problem, and why so few former employees are returning. In addition to the
obvious reasons (people still evacuated because they have no place to live,
people who have permanently relocated, people who have gone into the
construction trade), there was one I hadn't heard before.
"They're on hurrication," said Tommy Cvitanovich. That got a knowing
from everybody in the room.
"We call it 'FEMAcation,'" said an unknown voice. "
Orleans...a courtesan whose hold is strong upon the mature,
to whose charm
the young must respond...”
~ William Faulkner
lived near the main street of the quarter which is named Royal. Down this
street, running on the same tracks, are two streetcars, one named Desire and
the other named Cemetery. The indiscourageable [sic] progress up and down
Royal struck me as having some symbolic bearing of a broad nature on life
the Vieux Carré -- and everywhere else,
for that matter."
~ Tennessee Williams, 1940
Orleans, the voluptuous capital of the Deep South with a 200-year history
nurturing great storytellers and poets, is the perfect setting for a
gathering of America's literary aristocracy and those who aspire to
recognition as peers in the realm of arts and letters.
Sherwood Anderson, Hamilton Basso, Truman Capote, Kate Chopin, Dorothy
John Dos Passos, William Faulkner, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Lafcadio Hearn,
Ernest Hemingway, Anita Loos, Walker Percy, William Gilmore Simms, Mark
Twain, Eudora Welty, Walt Whitman, and Tennessee Williams are among the
literary immortals who found creative comfort and joy here in the past.”
seems to me that our three basic needs, for food and security and love,
mixed and mingled and entwined that we cannot straightly think
of one without
the others. So it happens that when I write of hunger, I
am really writing about
love and the hunger for it, and warmth and the
of it and the hunger for it…
and then the warmth and richness and
fine reality of hunger satisfied… and it
is all one."
~ M.F.K. Fisher, The Art of Eating
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