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"To cook is to create. And to create well...
is an act of integrity, and faith."


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"I still walk in and have that sort of visceral gastronomic sensation."
Harry Rosenberg, long-standing Galatoire's customer

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Have a heart for
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Gilberto Eyzaguirre,
Galatoire's, Aug 2000
Where is he now???









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"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

 “…in other American cities people ask ‘What do you do?’ but in New Orleans
they 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 jumping
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...’
“...New Orleans may be the one city in the United States that is entirely devoted
to pleasure, where the work ethic is blissfully missing and where locals prize a
good waiter more than a stock market tip.”
Food & Wine, March 2000
Edmund White, in "Tennessee in New Orleans"


Creole contretemps

“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 well-heeled
regulars up in arms and ...”

By Brett Anderson Restaurant writer
The Times-Picayune, New Orleans, LA, July 7, 2002

“In 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 'the
elegance and skill of the waiters.'
Fifteen 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 unique city
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
Williams in particular, and co-founder of The Faulkner Society, among other accolades.

“And dine he has, often at a twice-weekly pace and, for the past 20 years or
so, usually as the customer of his favorite waiter, Gilberto Eyzaguirre.
Eyzaguirre, 'Gilbert' to his legion of customers, was fired from Galatoire's
on April 27 after a female employee filed a sexual harassment complaint
against him.
It was the second such complaint filed against the waiter by a different
employee in less than two months.
If this were a story about anywhere else but New Orleans, or perhaps
anyplace else but Galatoire's, that would be the end of it. Instead, it was
only the beginning...”

*~ *~ *~ *

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 proven
guilty, is he not? If the allegations prove to be valid, his dismissal is
deserved. No hate mail, please!] I know whereof Gilbert’s supporters
speak. This is the city of my youth. I know how it feels to be pampered
in a fine restaurant, because my mother, Gigi, God rest her soul, always
had “her” waiters.
Not only at Galatoire’s and Antoine’s, 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
a tiny 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, intelligent, classy
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…

 “The 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
the cause of persuading Galatoire's management to rehire Eyzaguirre. The list
of letter writers is impressive; Pulitzer Prize-winning author Richard Ford and
noted Louisiana State University historian David Culbert are among them…

"...In 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
non-Galatoire family member to be named general manager and chief operating officer of the restaurant five years ago. The most seismic of those changes was
the controversial renovation that was completed in 1999. With the renovation
came new dining rooms upstairs and the opportunity to reserve tables, a first
in Galatoire's nearly century-old history...

“...When viewed through the prism of Galatoire's overall makeover, Holditch
writes, Eyzaguirre's firing ‘has made many of us ‘old-timers' aware of the fact
that 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.’ “

Sacre bleu!

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 taking their
own children and grandchildren, find comfort in the familiar details."

Do Gilbert's customers adore him, or what?!?! Read on...

“Smith 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 two
or three meals at Galatoire's. For the past 18 years, the Smiths were served
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 visits
is enough to make them change their plans.
‘He's that important,’ Smith said, and by way of explanation asked: ‘You know
how you feel when you're halfway through your second martini? That's how
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
served an exceptional meal by an excellent waiter, you know exactly what
I mean.
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 :

“The 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
Monday. The hour-long performance will feature a variety of local celebrities
and performers giving "dramatic" readings of the letters written in protest
over the firing of waiter Gilberto Eyzaguirre by Galatoire's management
this past spring...
... 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 show.
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, space con-
straints prohibit our presenting his Creole Contretemps article in its en-
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:

"Despite the changes, if a person who had not been to Galatoire’s for 40 years
would 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 still
giving special attention to their own loyal customers. There are no funky
new foods on the menu (don’t look for buffalo wing talapia fajita served
over pasta pesto) but rather classic French Creole dishes.
There’s still the mood and the feel in which people- watching is as much a
part of the experience as the hot French bread. Though the restaurant may
be packed, 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

[Errol 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 Galatoire's recipes?


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 will
be called Galatoire's Bistro, and it will have a two-page menu instead of a
five-page menu. Most of the dishes are the classics, but we'll have a few things
that will only be in Baton Rouge." He told me that it will open for lunch
and dinner, and that Justin Frey--a grandson of the founder--will run it.
The location could not be revealed (the lease has not yet been signed). But
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
laugh from everybody in the room.
"We call it 'FEMAcation,'" said an unknown voice. "

“...New Orleans...a courtesan whose hold is strong upon the mature,
to whose charm the young must respond...”
~ William Faulkner

 "I 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
in the Vieux Carré  -- and everywhere else, for that matter."

~  Tennessee Williams, 1940

“New Orleans, the voluptuous capital of the Deep South with a 200-year history
of 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
Dix, 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.”

"It seems to me that our three basic needs, for food and security and love,
are so 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
love 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 icon icon



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