John Besh is a chef and a native son dedicated to the culinary riches of southern Louisiana. In his restaurants, entrepreneurial pursuits, and public activities, he preserves and promotes ingredients, techniques, and heritage one mouth-watering dish at a time.
Besh grew up in southern Louisiana and has set the benchmark for fine dining in New Orleans – a town whose identity is bound to its food. His twelve acclaimed restaurants (August, Besh Steak, Lüke, Lüke San Antonio, La Provence, Domenica, Pizza Domenica, Borgne, Johnny Sánchez New Orleans, Johnny Sánchez Baltimore, Shaya and Willa Jean) celebrate the bounty and traditions of the region.
From the outset of his career, Besh’s talent and drive have earned him continuous kudos. In 2014, the James Beard Foundation inducted him into “Who’s Who in Food & Beverage.” Food & Wine named him one of the “Top 10 Best New Chefs in America,” and he won the coveted James Beard Award for Best Chef of the Southeast in 2006. In 2009, he was awarded Food Arts’ Silver Spoon Award for revitalizing the culinary legacy of New Orleans. His flagship restaurant, August, is a Gayot Top 40 Restaurant and a Wine Enthusiast Top 100 Restaurant, in addition to being a 2012 and 2013 James Beard Nominee for Outstanding National Restaurant (eligible only to restaurants open for ten years or more) and 2015 James Beard Nominee for Outstanding Service.
In 2015 Besh welcomed the latest addition to the BRG family: Willa Jean Bakery. Willa Jean Bakery, a collaboration between BRG Executive Pastry Chef Kelly Fields and Pastry Chef Lisa White (of Domenica and PIZZA Domenica), opened in August 2015.
In November 2015 the BRG announced an exciting new partnership with the beloved and historic Pontchartrain Hotel in which the restaurant group will execute all of the property’s food and beverage operations. The renovated Pontchartrain Hotel is slated to open in spring 2016.
In January 2016 the BRG announced the acquisition of a space in New Orleans to house a new private events venue, dubbed “Pigeon & Prince” in honor of the space’s previous incarnations as a pigeon roost and a bedsit for visiting royals. Executive Chef Erick Loos of La Provence is helming the culinary development for the space. Pigeon & Prince is expected to begin hosting events in late January.
Besh has authored four cookbooks: My New Orleans (October 2009) My Family Table (November 2011), Cooking from the Heart(November 2013) and most recently Besh Big Easy (September 2015) (Andrews McMeel Publishing). The books were recognized by John’s peers and the culinary industry by being awarded the prestigious IACP Award in the American category (2010, My New Orleans) and the Children, Youth and Family category (2012, My Family Table), with a nomination in 2014 for Cooking from the Heart.
He is the host of two national public television cooking shows, based on his award-winning cookbooks: “Chef John Besh’s New Orleans,” and “Chef John Besh’s Family Table.”
“Hungry Investors,” Besh’s latest television endeavor, premiered in May 2014 on the Spike network. The show followed him traveling around the country alongside Chef Tiffany Derry and Jon Taffer to seek out and assist “diamond in the rough” failing restaurants to meet their potential. He has also appeared on top television programs on The Food Network and the acclaimed Sundance Channel “Iconoclast” series alongside his longtime friend, jazz musician Wynton Marsalis.
A U.S. Marine, Besh is proud to have partnered with Baton Rouge-based emergency reconstruction specialists Arkel International, for which he creates high quality ready-to-eat meals for distribution to thousands of emergency response teams and sustained strategic operations in the U.S. and around the world; the initiative promotes the Gulf Coast’s food culture as it elevates the Louisiana economy.
Besh’s non-profit organization, The John Besh Foundation, works to protect and preserve the culinary heritage and foodways of both New Orleans and the Gulf Coast region through culinary scholarships and microloans. In 2011, and as part of the Foundation, the John Besh and Jessica Bride Mayor Chefs Move! Scholarship was established to send minority recipients to the International Culinary Center (ICC) for a nine-month program in New York City. For the program, scholars pledge to return to New Orleans to work in the restaurant industry for (at least) two years and to promote and support diversity in the kitchen. To date, ten scholarships have been awarded. The Foundation also provides microloans to financially assist and advise farmers and artisanal producers within a 200-mile radius of New Orleans.