She couldn’t make out every word right away, but Tina Terranova recognized the handwriting immediately. It was a Réveillon menu, inked on a single sheet of paper found amid a pile of notebooks in the office at NOLA, the Emeril Lagasse restaurant where she is sous chef. It was written by her old boss, chef Josh Laskay, and as usual it took a little deciphering.
“He’d write his specials by hand, and everyday started by saying ‘okay, let’s see what we can read here,’” Terranova said. “Looking at the dishes on this menu, though, every dish was Josh. These were dishes he loved to cook.”
Decoding this particular menu gave her chills, and also revealed to her an opportunity.
Laskay, the chef de cuisine at NOLA, died in April at age 38 from a lung infection after a month-long hospital stay. The New Orleans native was remembered as big-hearted and vivacious, eager to mentor, generous with his knowledge and willing to take a chance on untested talent. He was regarded as a “chef’s chef,” one more interested in honing his dishes, developing his staff and hosting his guests than chasing acclaim. His death left many devastated, and hospital bills still loom for his family.
When Terranova showed Laskay’s old menu to chef Jason Goodenough they quickly started planning a special Réveillon dinner around it. Goodenough, who once worked under Laskay at NOLA, will host the event at his own restaurant, the Riverbend bistro Carrollton Market. It will serve as both a benefit for Laskay’s family, and a tribute to the late chef himself.
“There’s something special about getting this menu,” said Goodenough. “We spend so much of our time as chefs planning our menus, writing them, wondering if they’re worthy. A menu can be a big part of your personality. This feels like a chance to honor him in a way that’s very personal.”
The idea resonated vividly with others. Isaac Toups, another veteran of NOLA who now has his own Toups’ Meatery, volunteered to prepare the dinner’s courtbouillon course. Amy Lemon, pastry chef for NOLA and Emeril’s Delmonico, will serve dessert. Carrollton Market has a tiny kitchen, but chefs and cooks from NOLA and its ranks of alums are lining up to take a turn.
“We’re basically fighting for a spot to cook this menu,” Terranova said. “We all feel like we can make his spirit come alive for the night.”
The Dec. 6 Laskay tribute dinner at Carrollton Market (8132 Hampson St.) has seatings at 6 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. It’s a seven-course meal (see the menu below), with cocktails and wine pairings, for $125 per person. Call Carrollton Market at 504-252-9928 for reservations.
8132 Hampson St., 504-252-9928
Dinner Honoring Chef Josh Laskay
Dec. 6, 2015
Butter Poached Gulf Oyster
Herbsaint Cream, Louisiana Ghost Pepper Caviar
Crispy Veal Sweetbreads
Haricots Verts, Tomott’s Farm Cherry Tomatoes, Capers, Crispy Brown Butter
House-cured Verlasso Salmon
Baby Frisee, Red Onion, Local Citrus, Toasted Almonds, Blood Orange Vinaigrette
Gulf Fish Courtbouillon
Louisiana Popcorn Rice, Crispy Okra,
Grilled Mississippi Quail
Bacon-smothered Collard Greens, Dirty Rice, Creole Mustard Reduction
Herb-crusted Rack of Lamb
Rosemary-roasted Potatoes, Sauteed Rapini, Madeira Jus
Dessert t.b.d., Prepared by Chef Amy Lemon of NOLA and Emeril’s Delmonico
Follow Ian McNulty on Twitter @IanMcNultyNOLA.