By Bob Uphues
A young Brookfield chef will step into the spotlight next month when he debuts a New Orleans-themed pop-up restaurant for one night inside Sebastian's Whiskey and Ale House, 8900 Fairview Ave.
Richard Ortega, who has called Brookfield home for two decades, is taking reservations for his NOLA Louisiana Kitchen/Boil online on their Facebook page (@NOLApopuprestaurant) for the Monday, March 9 event.
Ortega told the Landmark that the page had attracted 200 reservation as of last week, and that he's aiming for 300 total.
"We can serve 300 if we turn the tables twice," said the 30-year-old Ortega, who is employed as a sous chef at Sebastian's and hopes the pop-up can become a recurring event in the future.
"I'm planning on doing it more, and every time we'll do a different menu," he said.
Sebastian's is closed on Mondays, and the pop-up restaurant is being executed by Ortega and his partner, Kayla Hernandez, who also works in the restaurant business, in a front-of-the-house capacity.
"She's one of the best front-of-house managers I have ever seen in my restaurant career," Ortega said.
Ortega is renting the space, buying the food, and paying the cooks and servers.
"I'm taking over the restaurant for the day," Ortega said.
Seating is by reservation only from 5 to 10 p.m., with walk-ins welcome from 10 to 11 p.m. Takeout is also available, said Ortega.
As of last week, the prices for the menu items hadn't been nailed down yet, but the menu itself is set.
All of the food is inspired by the cuisine of New Orleans and Louisiana generally. Choices include two appetizers, fried gator and boudin bites, and four entrees, including blackened catfish (with dirty rice, maque choux and a Cajun beurre blanc); Pasta Orleans (pappardelle, with a Cajun alfredo, crawfish tails, andouille sausage and shrimp); Bayou Boil (gulf shrimp, Louisiana crawfish, corn, red potatoes and andouille); and crawfish etoufee over rice.
Dessert is beignets (French-style doughnuts). Ortega also is planning drink specials, including hurricanes, Sazerac, Vieux Carre and a crawfish Bloody Mary. A kids menu will also be available.
Ortega said he spent his early years in southeast Texas and grew up loving the food of the Mississippi Delta.
"We'd catch 5-gallon buckets of crawfish and turtles, and my mom would boil crawfish for us and make turtle soup," Ortega said. "I fell in love with not only the food, but the atmosphere and the culture."
Ortega said he got his start in the restaurant business at 15 as a busboy at the old Villa Maria restaurant on Ogden Avenue in Brookfield. He worked his way up from dishwasher to prep cook before working as a cook at Kama Indian Bistro in LaGrange and other places before working at hotel/banquet operations. He just started working at Sebastian's a couple of months ago.