Arnaud's restaurant (813 Bienville St., 523-5433; www.arnaudsrestaurant.com) dates back to 1918. With its maze of private dining rooms and its traditional menu, the restaurant ranks among the city's famed Creole grandes dames. Katy Casbarian's parents Jane and the late Archie Casbarian bought Arnaud's in 1978, and today Katy and her brother Archie are co-proprietors. Katy also serves on the boards of the Louisiana Restaurant Association, the New Orleans Metropolitan Convention and Visitor's Bureau and Lighthouse for the Blind.
Gambit: Did growing up in a restaurant family mean you were destined to work in the field?
Casbarian: I was about a year old when my family took over (Arnaud's), so my brother and I literally grew up here. After school or our sports activities, we came to the restaurant. We did our homework here, had the family meal here. We were encouraged to at least look at other sectors for our careers, but when you grow up with the restaurant industry it just gets into your blood. The people are amazing, and it's hard to find another working environment like a restaurant.
G: So many of the dining trends we see today go toward the casual end. Do you ever fear people are turning away from Arnaud's old-line style of fine dining?
C: I don't think we fear it so much. Part of our success is we've stayed true to our roots. Traditions are important, and especially in New Orleans people embrace that. So we're not changing things every week to keep up with the latest trends, but we do tweak things. Have we had to relax our dress code? Absolutely. It used to be strictly jacket required, but unfortunately you can't always do that now. But overall, I think the box that fine dining has been in is just bigger now.
G: The restaurant's bar, French 75, has become part of the city's craft cocktail circuit. Was that something Arnaud's has tried to cultivate?
C: That's really in large part due to what (bartender) Chris Hannah has done there. My father built that bar. It was originally an all-male dining room. But he envisioned it as a bar where people could feel like time stops for a bit and you could get a really well-made cocktail. Chris really ran with it and he has become a great part of this family. – Ian McNulty