Meet + Greet: Chef Robert Bruce

Local Chef Robert Bruce helps realize a dream with the opening of The Little Gem Saloon.

Locally born and raised, Robert Bruce started his career in the kitchen at the tender age of 15, washing dishes at Andrew Martin’s Cuisine. In his later years at high school, Bruce was fortunate enough to spend three summers under the wing of Roland Huet, an “old-school French chef that barely spoke any English” who taught him a lot of the basics. He also cooked with his grandmother who regaled him with smothered pork chops and mustard greens and taught him to “cook from the heart” and “clean as you go.”

After graduating from Wales University with an Associate’s degree in culinary arts, Bruce went on to Florida International University where he gained a Bachelors in hotel restaurant management. During his life, Bruce has worked in kitchens all over New Orleans including Upperline, Maylie’s Restaurant, Commander’s Palace, Ruth’s Chris and Emeril’s. Although he’s also been at the helm of several other local eateries like Smith & Wollensky, Palace Cafe and the Westbank’s Fountain Park Center, Bruce enjoys the freedom he’s gained opening The Little Gem Saloon.

“I like to teach people how to cook,” Bruce explains “and I have high expectations of my employees and people also have high expectations of me.” He believes in starting out simple and gradually creating dishes that are more complicated, challenging his employees step-by-step. “I’ve been fortunate to be able to hand pick good people [for The Little Gem Saloon].” Although managing a restaurant that is also a music venue and a banquet facility can be challenging at times, he has been excited about the future of this Rampart Street location since he worked across the street at the now closed Smith & Wollensky Restaurant. “I kept my eye on that space during its construction and was excited about its future.”

The Little Gem Saloon’s latest, most popular feature is their Live Jazz Brunch which includes a three-piece jazz band, valet parking and all-you-can-drink mimosas for only $35. During the week, enjoy lunch and dinner, and then catch a show upstairs and see performances from local musicians like Meschiya Lake & The Little Big Horns, Delfeayo Marsalis or Kermit Ruffins & the BBQ Swingers.

*Article originally published in the April 2013 issue of New Orleans Living Magazine

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