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Kurt Brodtmann 

Owner of Dijon

In his previous career, Kurt Brodtmann worked for a global engineering firm on large public works projects. He shifted gears, however, and today the New Orleans native is about to open Dijon (1377 Annunciation St., phone n.a.; www.dijonnola.com), an upscale, contemporary Louisiana-French restaurant inside a historic Lower Garden District firehouse. Chris Cody is executive chef. Brodtmann has restaurant management experience, but Dijon is the first restaurant venture of his own.

Gambit icon: How did you make the change from engineer to restaurateur?

Brodtmann: I knew I wanted to be entrepreneurial, and once you get a taste for that it's hard to go back to having 10 bosses and filing TPS reports. Restaurants are what I know as well as engineering. And, you know, being a kid growing up in New Orleans, whenever family from out of town would visit, you turn into the tour guide. I always enjoyed that part of hospitality and entertaining people.

G: Opening a restaurant can be a daunting task. What's been your experience getting Dijon off the ground?

B: To be honest, dealing with City Hall has been a lot easier than the reputation might make you think. You're jumping through hoops, you're walking from office to office, but if you have your ducks in a row and figure out the right questions to ask and where to get the answers you can do it. I think being a project manager in field operations helped with that. Throughout the buildout, we've kept our doors open and we listened to what the neighbors are telling us and have to say. I have a lot of friends here that run as deep as family. They're there for you and willing to lend a hand and that really helps starting out too.

G: What makes you think this is the right time to open a new restaurant?

B: I've always believed this town would see its renaissance and that's happening now. You can do your studies and see there are more restaurants now per capita, but there's also more money here now and the demographics are younger. There's a generation here now that goes out a lot more. We're planning for the worst but hoping for the best, and we're going to give it everything we've got.

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