Author, My Family Table (2011)
Owner/Executive Chef of 8 restaurants in New Orleans
Has been named one of the Ten Best New Chefs in America by Food & Wine in 1999
Won the James Beard Foundation Award for Best Chef in the Southeast in 2006
Runner up, first season of Food Network’s The Next Iron Chef
Attended: Louisiana State University;
Graduate: The Culinary Institute of America
4 sons: Brendan, Jack, Luke and Andrew
John Besh: My Family Table
The 700 Club
BORN TO COOK
John was born in Mississippi and raised in south Louisiana. He loved to hunt and fish. John is the fifth of 6 siblings. His grandmother was a great cook as was his mom. When his dad was hit by a drunk driver and paralyzed for life, John realized that he could make his dad happy by cooking for him during the convalescence period. “None of it tasted good, but it meant a lot to him.”
In 1986, John graduated from high school and enlisted in the US Marine Corps as a reservist. He was called to active duty in 1990 to serve in the Middle East where he was a non-commissioned officer during Operation Desert Storm and participated in the capture of Kuwait International Airport. After he married Jenifer, they moved to Europe where John apprenticed then they moved back to New Orleans. “I always knew I wanted to be a chef,” says John. He started his career as an executive chef in the 1990s and has since bought 8 restaurants, including one right before Hurricane Katrina hit. “Food became a way for me to help people who were hungry because of the storm,” says John. “Each time I found myself challenged to cook good food.” One day, Jenifer said, If you paid as much attention with what the boys were eating at home as your customers then we would all be a lot better off. “That hit home,” says John. “That’s what started all this,” says John, referring to his passion for preparing home cooked meals.
SLOWING IT DOWN
John reminds us of the importance and necessity of making meals at home. By planning ahead and thinking smart, people can put fresh, healthy meals on the table every day. John says we can slow things down and reconnect by gathering around the family table. Breakfasts are usually the big meal in the Besh household during the weekdays. On Sundays, John loses himself in Sunday suppers. “I hide away from the world among my little boys,” says John. He cooks totally different than in his restaurants. He assigns each boy a kitchen task, like measuring ingredients, slicing onions, peeling garlic or kneading dough. John wants his sons to understand the origin of local foods. “My boys think I’m crazy because I want them to learn how to make roux and a gumbo.”
He is concerned that Americans have lost the ability to sit down as a family. “We lose what gets passed down at the family table,” says John. A lot of children he works with don’t have a clue how to use utensils because everything is eaten by hand. “Everything is out of a box and all we live on is finger food,” says John.
John says with crazy, busy schedules, what better way to slow down on a Sunday than with a nice roast? He will slow roast a pork shoulder (page 38), make sloppy joe sliders (page 85), beef noodle bowls (page 86), heat and serve chili (page 84) and Brendan’s apple and pear crumble (page 240).
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