Humidity aside, many claim New Orleans and her rich bounty of natural resources as foodie paradise on earth. Red Fish Grill Executive Chef Brian Katz agrees despite a lauded twelve-year stint leading top kitchens on St. Thomas in the US Virgin Islands. “In other places eating out is sustenance or recreation…in New Orleans, dining is culture, religion and fanaticism,” says Brian.
Born in Long Island, New York, Brian began cooking at the tender age of 13 at La Baraka, a 64 seat family-owned restaurant in Little Neck, New York. Between stuffing profiteroles and shucking escargot, Brian became enraptured by the culture of a professional kitchen. The ceaseless hard work, talent, instant gratification and fleeting reward he witnessed quickly seared into his impressionable young mind a lifelong ‘you are only as good as your last plate’ philosophy
Upon high school graduation, Brian traded one coast for another earning a dual degree in Cognitive Science and Comparative Literature at the University of California, San Diego. While pursuing his studies, Brian worked at The Fish Market, a restaurant specializing in fresh fish caught directly from its proprietary fleet of boats. A job intended as a means to an end was instead an epiphany that cooking was his true calling.
Post-college, Brian followed his heart and his taste buds to New Orleans. The girl didn’t work out, but his love of cooking flourished over a five-year stint under the tutelage of Chefs Kevin Graham and Emeril Lagasse. While in New Orleans he married a self-described “GRIT” (Girl Raised In The south) whom he convinced to flee New Orleans for a once in a lifetime Island Adventure.
Intending a brief stay in St. Thomas, Brian and Julia instead clocked twelve years with Brian working as the chef of Randy’s Bistro, East End Sushi and Tempura, and Old Stone Farm House Restaurant. His career in St. Thomas culminated as Executive Chef and Director of Restaurants for Yacht Haven Grande, where Chef Brian oversaw all culinary and operational aspects of three waterfront restaurants including Fat Turtle, W!kked and Grande Cru.
Brian’s culinary skills have been recognized by Caribbean Travel and Life magazine “Best Restaurant in the Caribbean” – 2004, Virgin Islands Daily News “Best Chef in the US Virgin Islands” – 2002 & 2004 and “Best Gourmet Restaurant in the US Virgin Islands” – 2001, 2002, 2003. Brian was also honored as the Bon Appétit Celebrity Chef on its “Savor the Caribbean Tour” in 2004, 2005 and 2006.
In late 2008, Brian tucked away his love of diving and Island life and brought his GRIT back home. In New Orleans, Brian re-connected with fellow, former kitchen colleague John Besh, and took on the role of Director of Operations for the Besh Restaurant Group where he oversaw operations at six restaurants including the launchings of Domenica in the Roosevelt Hotel and The American Sector in the National World War II Museum.
Missing life as a working chef, in 2010 Brian left his operations role and took on the Executive Chef position at Ralph Brennan’s acclaimed seafood restaurant Red Fish Grill. Red Fish Grill’s festive atmosphere, funky décor, friendly service and devotion to contemporary interpretations of the freshest Gulf seafood seemed a perfect fit.
Since grabbing the culinary reigns, Brian has imposed his signature style on the restaurant’s iconic menu. Preferring each ingredient to stand alone and in concert to create new tastes, Brian takes simple ingredients and reshapes them into palate-pleasing combinations. In Brian’s hands, Rum-Flamed Shrimp marries the sweetness of shrimp and bracing beets, while blackened avocado is cooled simultaneously by ginger coulis. Natural reductions, purées and vinaigrettes largely replace butters, creams and roux in Chef Brian’s recipes yielding similar flavors with tastier results. A lemon butter sauce becomes preserved lemon vinaigrette; mashed potatoes morph into a purée of parsnips; and roux thickened brown gravy is set aside for a naturally reduced veal stock.
Formerly known as the “Tuna-Nazi” of the Virgin Islands for his insistence on preserving the rare texture, aroma and taste of tuna, Brian remains determined to keep the eye and palate engaged. Popular additions to Red Fish Grill’s menu include his Creole Tomato with Jumbo Lump Crabmeat appetizer with arugula, Dijon mustard vinaigrette, eggplant croutons and a parsley-dill pesto and Blackened Redfish entrée with a saffron shrimp salad, parsnips, haricot vert and malt vinegar pommes frites.
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