Chef Robert Bruce Interview


He is regarded as one of the leading young Louisiana Chefs.

New Orleans magazine commended him for his accom­plishments by naming him Best New Chef of 1995.

John Mariani, in the December 1995 issue of Diversion magazine named him as one of the nation's top "Chefs on the Rise" predicting him to "soar to star status in 1996."

How right he was! The readers of New Orleans magazine recently saluted him as New Orleans' Favorite Chef for 1996.

We're talking about Chef Robert Bruce.

Q. Mr. Bruce, now that you've been named New Orleans' Favorite Chef for 1996, what does that mean to you personally, and what will it do for your career? Does that mean you can ask the boss for a raise?
A. Since I've been cooking for 20 years, this recognition has given me a lot of personal satisfaction and I feel a great deal of gratitude to those people that voted for me. This recognition has helped me to establish respect, has increased my personal value and has helped me gain awareness to the surrounding community. I hope to get a raise, but of course, this is based on my performance and the bottom line.

Q. Your career began when the ware washer walked out of the restaurant your sister was working in. What is a ware washer? Is that what we'd call a dishwasher here in Syracuse?
A. A ware washer is one who washes dishes, pots, etc. The ware washer is also responsible for maintaining the whole restaurant clean: restrooms, dining rooms, dish-rooms and kitchen. A ware washer is what we refer to as a member of the H.M.C., House Maintenance Crew.

Q. How important was it to your career, that Chef Rayford gave you the opportunity to learn how to peel shrimp, pick crabmeat, and slice mush­rooms? Couldn't you have learned to do all that on you own?
A, Chef Rayford opened my eyes to the business. I would have found another avenue into this restaurant world because I have a love for food. I used to help my mom cook dinner all the time and it interested me a lot. I believe it is my dharma to be a chef.

Q. As a high school student you worked under Chef Roland Huet. What did he teach you?
A. Chef Roland taught me how to bust my butt, respect food, and work clean and fast. He taught me discipline at a very young age. He lives five blocks away from me and we still talk to each other often. He is 73 years old now. I owe a great deal to Roland.

Q. Your grandfather owned a restaurant, but how about your father, was he in the restaurant business?
A. My father is the Dean of Engineering at Tulane University. My stepfather is deceased, but he was an attorney.

Q. Tell me what it was like to study under Chef Emeril Lagasse.
A. Working with Emeril was a blast a minute. He taught me how to be an Executive Chef. He was hard on me, but he knew I could take it.

Q. You're a graduate of Johnson and Wales University. What did that school teach you about cooking that you couldn't have learned on your own?
A. That school was the best at that time, 1980. I learned classical ways of cooking, technique, and knife skills. I could have learned it all on my own, however, school helped me learn twice as fast. It also taught me discipline. I highly recommend Johnson and Wales or the Culinary Institute of America.

Q. What's ahead for you? Will you write a cook­book? Are you interested in your own TV show?
A. I plan to stay with the family (at the Palace Cafe) for the duration of my culinary career. I am currently working on recipes in hopes of putting together a cook­book. I like TV and have done several TV spots. If I were asked to do a show on the TV Food Network, I would jump at the opportunity.

© Gary James All Rights Reserved