The New Orleans Restaurant Bounce, After Katrina
BY KIM SEVERSON
On a brutally humid day almost 10 years ago, Donald Link was a sweaty, desperate man in a respirator mask lugging a rotting pig’s head to the curb. Unlike nearly 80 percent of New Orleans, his French-influenced restaurant, Herbsaint, hadn’t flooded when the levees failed during Hurricane Katrina. But the pig’s head, along with enough food to fill 50 trash bags, had been putrefying ever since the storm hit three weeks earlier. Contaminated drinking water, spotty power and not enough workers or customers would keep many of them closed for months, even years. Some never came back. But five weeks after the storm, using paper plates and bottled water, Herbsaint was up and running. “It seems like forever ago and it seems like it was just yesterday,” Mr. Link said recently. “It scared me to death to think everything I put into Herbsaint was about to be gone and I’d have to start over.” Now, Mr. Link employs about 300 people and has five restaurants, including Cochon in New Orleans and an outpost of his Cochon Butcher set to open in Nashville in September. Even early on a recent rainy Wednesday, Pêche, the Warehouse District seafood restaurant he opened in 2013 with the chef Ryan Prewitt, was packed. Mr. Link’s tale is a dramatic one in a city that many doubted could recover. A decade later, few would disagree that the New Orleans dining scene has not only come back, but the city is a much better place to eat than it was even before the storm.