Two of John Besh’s top lieutenants have formed a new company to run a clutch of hotel restaurants created by the now-beleaguered celebrity chef. The list includes the Caribbean Room at the Pontchartrain Hotel in New Orleans.
Emery Whalen, an executive manager with the Besh Restaurant Group, and Brian Landry, executive chef of its seafood restaurant Borgne, created the new venture called QED Hospitality.
The company has taken over the operations of Our House Hospitality, which was originally formed by the Besh group to run food and beverage services in hotels.
Whalen and Landry were both leaders in Our House Hospitality from its inception in 2016. They have now left the Besh Restaurant Group to develop their new company on their own. Whalen is chief executive officer and co-owner of QED Hospitality; Landry is the chef and co-owner.
It’s the latest change for the Besh Restaurant Group since allegations of sexual harassment against Besh and his company were first reported by nola.com in October. Besh stepped down from daily operations of his Besh Restaurant Group almost immediately and has kept a low profile since then.
Upon Besh's departure, his company appointed a new CEO, Shannon White, formerly the operations manager for the restaurant company, who pledged to provide new policies, training and employee resources.
A spokesman for the Besh Restaurant Group described the change of Our House Hospitality to QED Hospitality as part of a corporate restructuring that was under consideration for more than a year. State filings show QED Hospitality LLC was officially created in November.
The new company manages the Caribbean Room and related venues within the Pontchartrain Hotel, including the Bayou Bar, the Silver Whistle café and the rooftop bar Hot Tin.
The company also now manages the Nashville eateries that Besh and his partners developed in the Thompson Nashville hotel, including the seafood restaurant Marsh House.
The Besh Restaurant Group spokesman said the transition to QED Hospitality keeps the staff and day-to-day operations of the hotel restaurants in place.
In a statement, Whalen and Landry alluded to plans for growth for QED Hospitality. "We are grateful for the opportunity to continue providing excellent hospitality to both our guests and our staff," they said. "We are looking forward to growing and developing our operations in the coming year."
The Besh Restaurant Group formed Our House Hospitality as Besh and his partners were revving up for expansion outside of the New Orleans area, though its first project was close to home.
The Pontchartrain Hotel dates to 1927. Its flagship restaurant, first opened in 1948, was once among the most acclaimed in New Orleans. The St. Charles Avenue property was redeveloped and reopened by Chicago-based AJ Capital Partners, which tapped Besh and Our House Hospitality to handle food and beverage operations.
In addition to the Caribbean Room, the company developed modern versions of the hotel’s Silver Whistle, a breakfast nook once favored by local movers and shakers, and the Bayou Bar, a lounge where local leaders famously met with NFL officials in 1966 to sign the paperwork that created the New Orleans Saints.
AJ Capital Partners also developed the Thompson Nashville hotel where QED Hospitality now runs the restaurants. In addition to Marsh House, QED Hospitality runs the hotel's Killebrew cafe and its rooftop bar, dubbed L.A. Jackson.
The formation of QED Hospitality marks a new start for its two partners, who had each built prominent roles in the Besh Restaurant Group.
Whalen is a New Orleans native who started working for Besh in 2010 as a hostess as Restaurant August. She later held roles as director of special projects, director of communications and chief operating officer.
Landry, also a New Orleans native, had a five-year tenure as executive chef at Galatoire’s Restaurant. In 2011 he took on a new role as chef ambassador for the Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board, promoting local seafood as part of the industry’s response to the BP oil spill. He joined the Besh group later that year to develop Borgne in the Hyatt Regency.
Borgne is not part of the new QED Hospitality deal, and a spokesman confirmed that neither are the other Besh group restaurants housed in hotels — Domenica, in the Roosevelt Hotel, and Lüke, in the Hilton New Orleans/St. Charles Avenue. Rather, QED has taken over restaurants specifically developed under the Our House Hospitality banner.
With the change, the Besh Restaurant Group now comprises Restaurant August, Lüke, Domenica, Borgne, Pizza Domenica, Willa Jean, Shaya and the event facility Pigeon & Prince. Last spring, the former Besh restaurant La Provence was sold to new owners, who have run the upscale Lacombe dining destination independently since May.
Chef Alon Shaya, who in September was fired from his roles as chef of Domenica, Pizza Domenica and Shaya, is now in a legal battle with Besh over the use of the name Shaya and other matters. Shaya formed his own culinary company this fall called Pomegranate Hospitality, though it does yet operate any restaurants.
An ongoing legal fight between two big-name New Orleans chefs boils down to who gets to use one of those names – Shaya.
At a New Orleans bar where she once worked, a male customer gave Tyler Chauvin a tip by reaching into her shirt and shoving cash down her bra.…
Two days after a newspaper investigation revealed allegations of sexual misconduct and harassment at the Besh Restaurant Group, chef John Besh…