“Suppose we’re out on a river bank- or on the bank of a lake, rather- and we catch a fish. How would you cook it?” … Paul Prudhomme said he would put it in a black, cast-iron skillet, get it red-hot, cover it with spices, and char one of the sides and char it on the other side! Became blackened redfish.Gene Bourg
Gene Bourg was born in the Westbank of New Orleans in 1938 and attended De La Salle High School, and received his bachelor’s degree from Tulane University. He left the Westbank at the age of thirteen to attend De La Salle High School and began spending more time in New Orleans, getting an apartment in Uptown at nineteen. His first job was at the Times-Picayune, where he became an assistant financial editor. Bourg was then drafted into the Army, where he was stationed near Bordeaux and then in Paris, a formative time in his understanding of the larger culinary world. Returning from his time in the Army, he returned to the Times-Picayune and became a reporter. He had a column called the “City Hall Report” before he was tasked to cover the 1969-70 New Orleans Mayoral Election, which saw Moon Landrieu become the Mayor of New Orleans. He then continued to cover City Hall and report on what was happening in City Hall with the Landrieu administration. In the 1970s, Bourg was an avid restaurant-goer which then transitioned into his new position in 1985 as the food critic at the Times-Picayune. Throughout his career at the Times-Picayune, he became well acquainted with many chefs in the city as well as many restaurant owners, including Ella Brennan.
This interview focuses on Gene Bourg’s relationship with the politics and food scene of New Orleans through his positions as a columnist, editor, and food critic at both major papers in the city at the time, the States-Item and Times-Picayune. This includes a discussion of the 1969-70 election in New Orleans and Moon Landrieu’s election as Mayor of New Orleans. He details different details of the Landrieu administration and discusses Landrieu’s popularity. Being an avid restaurant-goer in the 1970s, he then discusses the restaurant scene in New Orleans during this period, prior to his becoming the food critic for the Times-Picayune in 1985. This includes a discussion of Ella Brennan, Paul Prudhomme, Emeril Lagasse, Mr. B’s, Restaurant Jonathan, and Al Copeland’s Popeye’s Fried Chicken. He discusses the impact that chefs like Lagasse and Prudhomme had on the cuisine of the city, moving it forward and evolving the city’s cuisine. He also discusses the downfall of the restaurant scene in the Westbank of New Orleans following the oil industry collapse. He also discusses the creation of two now infamous New Orleans dishes, blackened redfish by Paul Prudhomme and Monalbano’s creation of the muffuletta.
Citation (CMS): Bourg, Gene. Gene Bourg. Interview by Jack Davis and Justin A. Nystrom. Videorecording, transcript, May 13, 2014. Making Modern New Orleans Collection. Documentary and Oral History Studio, Loyola University New Orleans.
For more information about the Digital Humanities Studio’s interview collections and their use, please contact studio director Justin A. Nystrom. This interview and all related material including text and images are © 2022 Digital Humanities Studio, Loyola University New Orleans.