Last week marked my first ever visit to Café Reconcile and it surely did not disappoint. I had the pleasure of lunching with Celeste from Bouillie. She is a wealth of information on Southern Louisiana food and food culture. Learning more about the history of this remarkable organization from her was a treat.
Café Reconcile is non-profit restaurant that focuses on training youth (ages 16-22) from at-risk communities in the art of food service and restaurant management. There are a slew of people, restaurants and organizations that contribute to this goal, including some of the best executive chefs in New Orleans. The culinary training is outstanding but more than anything, the kids are amazing. The energy in this restaurant is warm, positive, full of strength, pride and hope. You can't not feel it. It's infectious and wonderful.
And the food? Fantastic! Celeste calls it "your grandma's food" but my grandma isn't from South Louisiana and she didn't sure didn't cook like this. We were lucky enough to come on a day when the special was Palace Cafe's signature preparation for Crabmeat Cheesecake. It was absolutely lovely. Celeste chose macaroni and cheese and stewed okra with shrimp as her side dishes
I had the Thursday special of shrimp and white beans with sides of potato salad and collard greens. The main dish was packed full of shrimp, savory and with a gorgeous depth of flavor that has me smitten. Everything was exactly as it should be. Comforting and familiar while also being surprisingly nuanced and complex. Beautifully prepared and served with enthusiasm, it was an excellent meal. I don't know how it has taken me 11 years of living in New Orleans to go, but I have truly been missing out.