With local restaurants practically begging for staff, Café Reconcile (1631 Oretha Castle Haley Blvd., 568-1157) is doing its best to help supply newly trained foodservice workers. The Central City cafe was established in 2000 by the nonprofit LSF Foundation as a hospitality school and job training program for at-risk youth. Since reopening in October, Café Reconcile is conducting an intensive month-long apprenticeship program to train people faster and get them working at conventional restaurants. Manager Craig Cuccia says the idea is to help local restaurants with their staffing quandary and also keep the café open while many of its former employees remain out of town. Volunteers in the kitchen and dining room are also keeping the cafe running and it is doing a bustling lunch business, serving quick meals of fried catfish, shrimp Creole, baked chicken and similar fare for $8 with sides and drinks. There is also a small shop inside the cafe selling baked goods and coffee. Café Reconcile is open weekdays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Emeril Lagasse isn't currently serving wine in New Orleans, but the celebrity chef's past achievements have earned him this year's Distinguished Service Award from Wine Spectator magazine. The award, presented in October at an event in New York, is given for "significant and long-lasting contributions made to the wine industry," according to the magazine. Lagasse is only the second person from the food world to receive the award, which usually goes to vintners or others in the wine industry. Julia Child won it in 1995. Lagasse's three New Orleans restaurants remain shuttered, but he recently announced that Emeril's Restaurant (800 Tchoupitoulas St., 528-9393) will reopen Dec. 8 and Emeril's NOLA Restaurant (534 St. Louis St., 522-6652) will reopen Dec. 13, both serving dinner only. Emeril's Delmonico (1300 St. Charles Ave., 525-4937) was more heavily damaged in Katrina and is expected to reopen sometime in 2006. The chef's corporate office, which oversees his cookbooks, branded products and recipe-development operations, is open in the Warehouse District.
Even the most devoted home cooks may be unable to provide a traditional Thanksgiving spread this year with so many gas stoves and kitchens out of order post-Katrina. That's why hotels and restaurants that are serving Thanksgiving dinner are expecting big crowds. Among the more notable restaurants open for Thanksgiving this year are Bayona (430 Dauphine St., 525-4455), which at press time Chef-owner Susan Spicer expected to reopen Nov. 18; Tujague's (823 Decatur St., 525-8676), which is currently the oldest restaurant now open in New Orleans; and Latil's Landing (40136 Highway 942, Darrow, 891-9494), the restaurant in the Houmas House Plantation in Ascension Parish that was listed among the top 20 new restaurants in the nation last month by Esquiare magazine.