The Best Way to Serve Creole Cuisine
Ye Olde College Inn: New Orleans, LA
“The south has a smile! It’s not just a location, it’s a state of mind. We shake a man’s hand and kiss a lady hello!” (Even if they’re drippin in gravy!) ~ Johnny Blancher
Johnny Blancher, CEO and chef of Ye Old College Inn in New Orleans, LA knows a little bit about southern cooking. Just as importantly, he knows the best way to serve creole cuisine. He grew up in the restaurant business. His father has owned the ever popular, Rock ‘n’ Bowl on South Carrollton since the early 90’s. In 2003, his family purchased the College Inn property and continued a long tradition of old and new menus that date back to the end of prohibition.
Formerly owned by the Rufin brothers, Emile, Denis Jr. and Albert, Ye Olde College Inn originally operated as a drive-in, beginning as far back as 1933. It has stood the test of time and has remained a landmark for over 80 years now. Lots of memories were made in the “oyster shell parking lot during the car-hop days where romances were kindled behind foggy windows” of cars. Johnny shared this memory with me,
“I had an elderly gentlemen a few years ago loudly call me from across the restaurant. I rushed over thinking something was wrong. I said, ‘What can I do for you sir?’ He exclaimed, ‘Hurry up, my daughter’s in the restroom. Do you know what used to go on in that parking lot of yours?’
‘I’ve heard some stories’, I said. The elderly gentlemen leaned in and whispered, ‘Don’t tell my daughter but she was conceived out there.’
I almost cracked up. His daughter had to be well past 50 years old. I’m sure she would have gotten a laugh out of it.”
Post Katrina News
While there’s no current tales of romance in their parking lot, there’s still a lot to love about the Inn. Menus have changed, the building has been restored since Katrina in 2005, but the New Orleans Po-Boy and the Breaded Veal Cutlet are staples til this day.
Appreciation for New Orleans icons sparked the interest of the Blanchers, who were already operating their own New Orleans landmark, the Rock’n’Bowl.
“The Rufin and Blancher families, would have interesting parallels. Instead of three brothers, it would be three brothers-in-law, Jimmy Hankins, Chad Penedo, and Johnny Blancher. Emile Rufin and Johnny Blancher both left LSU Baseball to return home to their family businesses. Just two years into their tenure Hurricane Katrina hit and sent the Blanchers to Lafayette, LA to ride out the storm. The College Inn sustained 3 feet of water, and significant roof damage destroyed the old building. An older brick and steel building that predated the College Inn would be key to the comeback. The building had a history of its own to tell.”
As Chef and CEO of Ye Olde College Inn and Rock’n’Bowl®, Johnny Blancher carefully blends new creole cuisine with traditional New Orleans classics. While growing up in New Orleans, the food culture influenced Johnny greatly. Frequent visits to his family’s southwest Louisiana cattle ranch and farm fused both the creole and cajun food cultures in a unique way. He has been featured on multiple local television networks, Live with Regis and Kelly, won the New Orleans Po-Boy Festival “Best in Show” twice and won the NOLA Navy Week Seafood Cook-off. Johnny is a husband to his bride of 16 years, Christine, and father of three children, Piper (13), Blaise (11) and Lola (9).
If you are traveling to or live near New Orleans, be sure to stop by either of these restaurants for a true taste of southern cuisine. The Rock ‘n’ Bowl is a completely different experience with a history that reads like a National Geographic article. Oh, wait, that’s exactly how they got their start! After a NG reporter spent some time in NOLA, the restaurant was featured in the magazine and the Rock ‘n’ Bowl became a must-see southern destination. Then years later after Katrina, the two businesses were the only two with electricity on Carrollton Avenue due to the love and help of their neighbors. The strength, faith and old fashioned hard work of this family should keep them in New Orleans for generations to come.
And then there’s the flavorful cuisine prepared by Johnny Blancher and Chef Guevara. You’ll find southern favorites like Crawfish Mac ‘n’ Cheese, Turkey and Andouille Gumbo, Slow-cooked Lamb Shank and the ever-favorite, Fried Green Tomato Shrimp Remoulade Po-Boy. If your sweet tooth is aching for something delectable, a must try on the menu is the Fried Bread Pudding Po-Boy.
These two establishments are not just a location. They are a southern state of mind and know how to serve creole cuisine; with a smile, a handshake or a kiss on the cheek. And if that cheek is dripping in gravy prepared in either of these restaurants, there just might be a line formed for the kissing.
3000 SOUTH CARROLLTON AVE. / NEW ORLEANS, LA 70118 TEL 504 866 3683