Although Gunter Preuss is well-known as a chef, wife Evelyn wears the apron at home.
“I just like to cook. No matter what kind of day I’ve had, I like being in my kitchen and looking out into the courtyard while I prepare dinner,” Evelyn said.
Together, Gunter and Evelyn Preuss will welcome guests to their kitchen from noon to 4 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 4, during “Cirque de Cuisine,” a French Quarter kitchen tour to benefit the Southern Food and Beverage Museum.
“I had always wanted to live in the French Quarter, but it wasn’t easy to convince my husband to buy this place 15 years ago because we had a beautiful home in Metairie,” Evelyn said. “The neighbors called it ‘the T house,” but not for sipping tea — the T stood for ‘termites.’ You should have seen this place when we bought it.”
The couple worked with the late preservation architect Frank Masson to restore the two-story townhouse, winning a coveted award from the Vieux Carré Commission in 2004 for the work.
The masonry home has a carriageway to the left of the entrance and a gallery with a cast iron railing above. Across the courtyard in the rear, a two-story guesthouse has a bedroom suite upstairs and living area below.
The kitchen opens through French doors to the bricked courtyard, where a wall fountain furnishes the soothing sound of running water.
“My wife has her plants and flowers out there,” said Gunter. “We have a wooden wine box that we keep planted with herbs like basil, thyme and rosemary.”
Inevitably, the fresh herbs end up in whatever is simmering on the couple’s six-burner Thermador gas cooktop.
One night, Evelyn may prepare beef stroganoff, on another, chicken fricassee or lentil stew.
When Gunter steps up, it could be something as simple as bratwurst with onions or leeks folded into a broth-based sauce finished with cream.
The Preuss name is writ large in the history of fine dining in New Orleans.
A native of Breslau in Germany, Gunter was classically trained and established a reputation for himself here at the Sazerac Restaurant.
He created the Versailles, a storied restaurant which was open from 1972 to 1985 on the ground floor of The Carol, an upscale condominium building at St. Charles and Jackson avenues.
In 1983, he and a business partner bought Broussard’s and oversaw its revival. Evelyn and one of the couple’s two sons also contributed to the renaissance of the “grande dame,” which the Preusses sold two years ago.
Gunter, who was profiled in the PBS series “Great Chefs of New Orleans,” now works as a chef in residence for Dickie Brennan’s enterprises, where he trains culinary staffs at four restaurants and helps the head chefs at each with menu development.
The couple’s long history with fine dining and sophisticated restaurants is eclipsed only by the length of their marriage.
“We met in 1958 in Germany when my brother-in-law introduced us, but it was not love at first sight. It took a while to develop, but just look how long it lasted,” said Evelyn. “We were married in 1960 and have been together for 55 years.”
Sunday afternoons often find the family — including two grandchildren, 14 and 18, who live in New Orleans — gathered around the walnut dining table that Evelyn had made expressly for the couple’s home.
“I wanted the table to be a little narrower than usual so it could fit the space better,” Evelyn said. “It seats eight, so there is room for everyone.”
The kitchen is immediately adjacent to the dining room. Although the antique duck press (a long-ago gift from Bernard Guste of Antoine’s) doesn’t see much use, the heating tray does.
“It’s the best feature of the kitchen,” said Gunter. “I can put it on low or medium or high, and it keeps the food and plates nice and warm.”
The hood over the range was hand-painted by artist Linda Wheat with witty depictions of cherubs wearing chef’s toques and aprons. And although copper pots and cake pans hang above the kitchen island, Gunter and Evelyn prefer simple stainless steel pots for everyday cooking.
“My husband always says it doesn’t matter what kind of stove you have: If you don’t know how to cook, it won’t make a difference,” Evelyn said. “The same is true for pots. If you can’t cook, a fancy pot won’t save you.”
R. Stephanie Bruno writes about homes and gardens. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.