Chef Donald Link
Famous for: Bringing national attention back to Cajun Cooking
Snapshot: Owner of four award-winning archetypal eating establishments in the warehouse district of New Orleans. Herbsaint, his first restaurant, carries a French bistro theme. Cochon, which he runs with his partner Stephen Stryjewski, is a bastion of true Cajun cooking. Cochon Butcher is an old world butcher and charcuterie, and Calcasieu is a private event facility. Link, and his partners have announced plans to open Pêche Seafood Grill in New Orleans this spring.
Recent accomplishments: Herbsaint earned him a James Beard award in 2007 for Best Chef South. In 2012, and again this year, Link was nominated by the James Beard Foundation for the prestigious award of Outstanding Chef. His first cookbook-- Real Cajun won the top James Beard award for Best American Cookbook.
Family heritage: Besides his hunting and fishing experiences as a boy, Link had 35 aunts and uncles who made their own deer and pork sausages.
Inspiration: “After attending culinary school in California, I worked with Albert Trodjman at the Flying Saucer in San Francisco. He was a maniac and an amazing cook. Working with him, I realized there was a future in cooking for me.”
First experience with Louisiana Seafood: Going shrimping, crabbing, and fishing with my dad and grandfather.
Loves Louisiana Seafood because: “Its diversity, depth and sweetness.”
Signature Louisiana Seafood dish: “We fry soft shell crabs, then toss them with chilies, butter and our signature hot sauce. You don’t want to fool around with them any more than that.”
Where he catches Louisiana Seafood: “The Toledo Bend Reservoir for fresh water fish, and the waters near Port Sulphur and Point a la Hache for redfish and drum."
Favorite memory: “Coming back from a morning of bass fishing and smelling the bacon my mother was cooking as we drove up to the camp.”
Best cook he ever knew: “My granddad. He was the best, hands down. He made creamed corn, cornbread and smothered goose and squirrel. You didn’t mess with him. We ate whatever he cooked.”
A childhood favorite not on any of his menus: Squirrel and Dumplings with cornbread and smothered greens. “Unless you go out and find a squirrel to shoot, you can’t really eat them. But you can use rabbit.”
On my day off: “I play tennis two or three times a week. Or at least I try.”
Favorite snack: Has a cup of gumbo and a couple of slices of boudin every day.
Kid Stuff: “Helping my daughter catch her first ‘bull red’ on Lake Hermitage is one of my favorite moments.”
Why he’s a cook: “I love it. The first time I did it, I said, ‘I’m going to do this forever.’ I love the zen beauty of cooking, the oneness with food.”