At Hyatt Regency New Orleans, executive chef Eric Damidot explains that the best local fishermen and farmers have to trust a chef in New Orleans before they can work together.
“If you don’t have a good relationship with the farmers you won’t get anything because they only give it to people they know,” he says. “Same with the oyster guy. If you are very good, you get it. If you’re not a good chef, they’re gonna say, ‘Oh, I’m out.’”
Good as in nice, or good as in talented?
“It’s about building a relationship and have them really believe in what you do in the community, and that’s what we do at Hyatt,” says Damidot. “You know, the oyster guy calls me and says, ‘Hey, you get the first batch of oysters or you get the first crawfish.’ And I’m very proud of that.”
He explains that Cajun and Creole cooking take creative comfort cuisine to a new level. Even a pig-in-a-blanket here is made with local smoked andouille sausage and artisan cheddar. At the 8 Block Kitchen & Bar housed inside Hyatt’s towering atrium, the concept is “purely farm-to-table” with specialties like whole hog and whole duck barbecue.
One of Damidot’s favorite dishes is a crostini with bread that he makes himself, squash and local burratta—“the cream of the cream of mozzarella cheese,” he says. “We do a lot of receptions because we have an open kitchen so we’re cooking live with things like mini crabcakes. And we have Jazz Nights on Friday and Saturday, so everyone can go to the jazz party after and enjoy the chocolate bar.”