UNO documentary: Suis Generis, the restaurant of food evolution

What: Suis Generis, a restaurant at 3219 Burgundy Street, who are currently serving octopus and shrimp on sugarcane skewers and creole chicken and sausage pot pies. Suis Generis has also recently bought property in Pearlington, MS to plant their organic garden, which will be called: Suis Generis Tiki Farm. 
 
Film by: UNO student and documentarian Bala Mangia
 
Editor’s Note: NolaVie partners with students of UNO professor László Zsolt Fülöppairing them with artists, non-profits, environmental groups, and cultural entities to facilitate a live curriculum that results in a short documentary. This documentary short was made by Bala Mangia, a student in the Film and Theatre Department at the University of New Orleans, about eclectic restaurant Suis Generis.
 
|Read the full transcript of the interview below|

[Full Transcription]

My love for the restaurant business dates back to when I was a child, originally. Both of my grandparents owned restaurants in Boston, so I grew up around it. I was born in New Orleans, and we lived near Commander’s Palace, and I grew with some of the Brennan’s children. I was lucky enough to go into Commander’s Palace before they would open. 

I would walk through the open kitchen–dating back as far as when Emeril [Lagasse] and even before that, Paul Prudhomme were the chefs. I would stop and look at them, and Paul Prudhomme would say, ‘Are you interested,’ and he’d show me a few things. I was hooked at a very early age. 

The way we come up with our dishes and menus is very unique. We call it ‘food evolution.’ What is ‘food evolution’? ‘Food evolution’ is the process of receiving new ingredients on a constant basis and using those ingredients to create new dishes and evolve those dishes throughout the week and into the following week. For example, we might get fresh foraged mushrooms one week, so we’ll grill them and serve them. If we have extra mushrooms by the end of the week, we’ll turn those into a sauce for the following week. 

Each Monday we have a chef meeting, which is where we come up with the menu that comes up the following Friday. In that meeting, we look at what we have from the previous menu and our lists from the farmers and fishermen and meat purveyors of what we want to bring in for the current week and combine it. 

Suis Generis is a Latin word, and it has multiple meanings. Originally, our restaurant was going to be called ‘The Huey’ because Huey Long. Huey Long is an infamous New Orleans character, who supposedly did some backroom deals at the bar next door, so we thought that would be an interesting take on Louisiana history. Another restaurant opened using, essentially, that same name, and it wasn’t a restaurant I wanted to be associated with. So we changed the name and had to think of a different name. Adrienne did some research and found that Huey Long actually called himself Suis Generis, which means ‘from nothing or one-of-a-kind.’ It’s also a legal term, and I’m a lawyer also, and it means ‘issue of first impression or an issue that hasn’t been resolved.’ In the Latin translation it means ‘one-of-a-kind’ and our menus are one-of-a-kind every week, so it made sense. Adrienne came up with that name, and that’s what we went with. 

I’m very much into music, so I started DJing many years ago and collecting vinyl, so I spin records here on Saturday nights and other places too. I do the Twelfth Night Party for the Krewe of Columba. The problem is time. 

Part of my objective in this business is to help talented young chefs to either grow with me or go on their own and flourish in their own endeavors. If I have chefs that come through here and end up going other places and opening restaurants and developing and being successful in that way, to me that’s very satisfying. In a way, I can either step back, and I will step back more, but I’ll always be involved in my restaurant. But seeing other chefs come through here and be successful is very rewarding to me. 

 

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