Tuesday, August 19, 2008

No Need for Shouting

Posted By on Tue, Aug 19, 2008 at 9:30 PM

click to enlarge gaut.jpg

Behind the façade of this innocent looking Uptown address is a kitchen that has proved a magnet for chefs who either win national acclaim over its stoves or soon go on to earn culinary glory elsewhere.

This is Gautreau's, the restaurant reviewed in this week's issue, and its 27-year-old chef Sue Zemanick was recently named among Food & Wine magazine's top 10 new chefs in the nation.

That's an honor she now shares with previous Gautreau's chefs Mat Wolfe, who won the award in 2004, and Larkin Selman, who won in 1993.

Meanwhile, the honor roll of other chefs who got started or took a turn through Gautreau's kitchen includes Richard Benz, who later opened Dick and Jenny's; John Harris of Lilette; Eric Cadow of the now-shuttered Cafe Indo; and John Currence, of City Grocery in Oxford, Miss.

With this kind of lineage and alumni, the sidewalk outside this restaurant could conceivably boast a walk-of-fame, with chefs' names, handprints and maybe even whisks or knives imprinted in the cement ala Hollywood. But that's just not the style of this smooth, subdued operation.

In fact, the only indication of a restaurant waiting within the old Uptown storefront are the well-heeled patrons greeting each other outside by the ginger stalks and walking in together. To push open those frosted doors is to step into a gilded, quietly bustling dining room. It can feel like stumbling upon a private club, or perhaps what it was like to visit a speakeasy in the dark days of Prohibition.

It's no wonder visiting Hollywood types seem to gravitate to Gautreau's, or that corporate chiefs pick its private upstairs dining rooms for their powwows. There's a cool elegance to the place, and for first timers the thrill of discovery is all the more exciting for the dearth of fanfare.

Ian McNulty

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