Photos by Shelly R. Sessions
Chef Carl Schaubhut (left) and Chef Jean-Pierre Guidry (right) complement each other in the kitchen of the new Covington restaurant.
Country Roads is proud to profile the four outstanding chefs who won the 2016 Small Town Chefs Awards. Made possible through a special collaboration with the Louisiana Culinary Institute, the chefs were honored at a five-course dinner at the Tin Roof Brewery on June 26, 2016.
It was the Emperor of all Maladies that bonded them. In 2014, Carl Schaubhut, then executive chef of Café Adelaide in New Orleans and father to two young children, was diagnosed with advanced stomach cancer. Now cancer free, Schaubhut found momentum in battling the illness. He reached out to his old co-worker, Jean-Pierre Guidry, who was working at Lüke at the time, and asked him to make a change. “You never know what’s around the corner,” explained Schaubhut, now 34, in a recent interview. “It’s now or never.” Guidry joined Schaubhut in opening their long-dreamed-of restaurant, Bacobar, in Covington earlier this year.
The pair met in 2011 when they worked together in the kitchen at Commander’s Palace under Chef Tory McPhail. “We were fast friends,” Schaubhut said. “We balance each other out, yin and yang, pushing each other in a bunch of ways.”
Guidry trained at the Culinary Institute of America. His first job was with Daniel Boulud in New York. Schaubhut is self-taught. Both men are Louisiana natives who hailed from families of hunters, fishers, and cooks.
Guidry, 40, is a straight-up Cajun out of Galliano on Bayou Lafourche, a proud product of South Lafourche High School, “Home of the Cajun Cannon, baby,” Guidry said. His grandfather spoke only Cajun-French, and food was central to the big Catholic family within which he was “the baby in a brood of six.”
Schaubhut was born to a Des Allemands family but grew up in New Orleans attending Catholic schools—Christian Brothers then Jesuit. Italian on his mother’s side, Cajun-French-German on his father’s, upon graduation from LSU he was expected to follow a long line of relatives into the medical industry, but his passion for the kitchen won out. He considered culinary school until a mentor at Commander’s Palace advised him against it.
With both men hailing from fine-dining kitchens, their peers had expectations for what kind of restaurant the duo would open, but they wanted to step back and have some fun. “We wanted to do what everybody expected us not to,” Schaubhut said.
They envisioned a restaurant that serves the food they like to eat as chefs, foods reliant on fresh produce from their own gardens and locally-sourced proteins but not beholden to any one culinary genre. They wanted to walk the line between stylish and welcoming to families, with service both knowledgeable and friendly. Their place would be affordable and fun, one you want to hit again and again. Thus, they crafted their formula. They would serve as culinary partners, equals in the kitchen as well as the business so they could each “have lives” and be with their families. Each contributes his strongest skills in complement to the other’s—the yin and the yang.
The balance is holding. Inside Bacobar, located on a bustling section of Highway 21, edgy chandeliers reminiscent of sunbursts illuminate a bar with a minimalist Tiki vibe where craft daiquiris are served via pull levers set within the stone walls. Guests can sink down into deep banquettes or sit outside and soak up the sunshine.
On the menu, the Louisiana underpinnings are clearly discernible beneath layers of Asian and Latin influence. The eponymous “bacos” take center stage. The Asian-inspired tacos are served in a squishy bao (steamed bun). Fillings include twice-cooked pork butt with cabbage, pickled peppers, and chicharróns; smoky sweet beef debris with shaved Brussels sprouts, lime onion relish, and fried shallots; crispy Gulf shrimp, cucumber, pickled vegetables, Seoul sauce, and sesame seeds; plump cornmeal-crusted Gulf oysters with kimchi, remoulade slaw, and furikake; and Thai grilled chicken thighs, creamy slaw, and garlic chips.
The playful culinary cross-over is evident too in Shrimp Remoulade Tostones with crispy plantains, cebollita-cabbage salad, tomato, cilantro, and kimchi remoulade; Crawfish Rangoon Gratin served with smoked chile-spiced wonton chips; and Gumbo Ramen, a crawfish and blue crab gumbo with crispy oysters, shiitake ramen stir fry, hardboiled egg, and sesame butter.
Nationally celebrated bar legend Lu Brow—formerly of Café Adelaide, now at Brennan’s—is responsible for the cocktail program. Her concoctions mirror the rest of the eclectic vibe. Off-the-wall, upscale frozen daiquiris include a French 75; the Chi Chi with Pinnacle Vodka, ginger liqueur, cream of coconut, and pineapple; the Plantation Punch of Appleton and Myers’s Dark rums, falernum, ginger syrup, Angostura bitters, pineapple, lime, and cranberry; and the Praline Cream with Rougaroux 13 Pennies Praline Rum, Nocello, cream, and brown sugar syrup. There are also eight local beers on tap, and an approachable and affordable wine selection rounds out the offerings.
Of the instant and enduring success of their unorthodox restaurant, which they plan to franchise, Schaubhut and Guidry seem fulfilled. The quote scrawled across the menu’s bottom is, fittingly, attributed to both chefs: “Living to eat, cooking with love.”
70437 Highway 21 #100 Covington, La. (985) 893-2450 bacobarnola.com