Meridian Star


August 21, 2007

A singular culinary career

New Orleans has many culinary icons. In the beginning there were Jean Galatoire, Arnaud Cazenave, and Antoine Alciatore. By mid century the Brennan family began to set up shop in North America’s Creole Capital. In the 1970s Warren LeRuth was on top and passed the torch to Paul Prudhomme who began his reign in the early 1980s. Emeril Lagasse opened his first restaurant in 1990, and John Besh brought us into the new millennium. All have left their mark on the Crescent City’s culinary scene.

Countless chefs have passed through the city’s kitchens over the last century. Some became famous and moved on, others stayed. Still others finished their careers as local heroes, or toiled in obscurity in the lesser known kitchens — a career sous chef or line cook — spending decades feeding tourists and locals alike.

Nationally known icons aside, the most knowledgeable culinary personality in New Orleans — the man who has met every chef, eaten every dish, knows the food, has cooked the food, has written about the food, and eventually made a living out of talking about the food, while witnessing every restaurant opening for the last 35 years — is not a chef or a restaurateur.

Tom Fitzmorris knows New Orleans and he knows food. Born on Mardi Gras, he wrote his first restaurant review in 1972, and has written at least one per week ever since.

As one who is responsible for 750 words per week, I am in awe of Fitzmorris, whose daily internet newsletter, The New Orleans Menu — over 4,000 words daily by my count — contains the most informative and up-to-date chronicling in and of one of the nation’s top food cities.

Fitzmorris is the foremost expert on the New Orleans restaurant scene. He is certainly the senior statesman of New Orleans’ food writers. This Creolized version of Craig Claiborne has written for several national publications, served as editor of quite a few local publications, but the strongest witness to his prolific journalistic output is the daily newsletter, The New Orleans Menu.

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