New Orleans native Chris Montero got his start at Louis XVI during that former French Quarter restaurant's heyday and later worked with chef Susan Spicer and the late New Orleans food legend Warren LeRuth. Montero joined the Ralph Brennan Restaurant Group in 1999 and served as Bacco's chef until it closed in 2011. He opened the company's latest venture, Cafe B (2700 Metairie Road, Metairie, 504-934-4700; www.cafeb.com), later that year.
Creole cream cheese features prominently on your menu at Cafe B. Why is that?
Montero: I'm related to the Centanni family, who had Gold Seal Creamery in Mid-City, and they were famous for decades and decades for their Creole cream cheese. I wanted to make it really authentic so I used the old family recipe. My cousins come in and they all get a kick out of it. But then we completely flipped it by making it into a savory dip with crabmeat, which has been our top appetizer from day one.
How has Cafe B changed since opening last year?
M: When we opened, it was more of a gastropub, new-American concept. But the customers were asking for more traditional, but elevated, New Orleans dishes. Pan-sauteed speckled trout with crabmeat and a satsuma butter sauce, that's my No. 1 dish now. It's like trout meuniere, which everyone knows, as opposed to trufffle fries, a gastropub dish we also have. So we're bridging the two concepts.
You served President George W. Bush and the first lady at Bacco shortly after Hurricane Katrina. What was that like?
M: It was amazing, and we did it under the most unbelievable circumstances. We'd been back open for maybe two weeks, and we did that [with] 24 hours' notice. I was one of three people who knew. It was really interesting to see the protocol. They had a Secret Service guy with me the whole time. They had a guy watching me cook the whole time, a guy who had a briefcase with the plates the president and the first lady ate off of. It was actually fun though, not as stressful as I thought it'd be once we got going. — IAN MCNULTY