Over the past couple of months, I have come to love living in Algiers Point. The people are extremely friendly, and in a greater degree than the rest of the city, I feel like everyone in this neighborhood knows everyone else in this neighborhood, so much so that it rivals the feel of a small town. Another aspect I adore is how this tiny area has amassed an eclectic little group of business people, artists, writers and (most importantly) chefs. In fact, even though I am new to the ‘hood, I already know of four incredible cooks whom reside here, one of which is the notable Peter Vazquez.
The Pittsburgh-born chef made his name in New Orleans when he and his now ex-wife Janis opened their high-end restaurant Marisol in the French Quarter back in 1999. The restaurant and its chef received much acclaim and remained a dining destination until the city was devastated by the 2005 levee failures during Hurricane Katrina. Sadly, Marisol never reopened, but thankfully Vazquez didn’t stop cooking. Not only did he feed people trapped in the city and many of the first responders after that fateful flood, but he continued “popping-up” at Bywater wine shop Bacchanal, cooking Brazilian-themed cuisine, for many years following.
After a not-so-successful stint at Italian restaurant Mimi’s in River Ridge, Vazquez starting doing pop-ups at Stein’s Deli dubbed the “Hush Supper Club,” at which I was fortunate enough to try his excellent tamales and pulled pork empanadas. Almost seven years ago, Vazquez once again opened his own digs called The Appetite Repair Shop, a small, take-out only spot in the Point. Over the years since, I have made plans to cross the river and get grub from one of the finest chefs in New Orleans, but something always got in my way. Now, with his place only four blocks away, I have no excuse.
A couple of weeks ago, not long after moving into the neighborhood, I made my way over to Vallette Street and finally met Chef Vazquez face-to-face. In the past, we had become somewhat acquainted over Facebook, but it was the first time I got to see him in action.
Singing along with songs playing on the radio, Vazquez bustled around his cozy kitchen/shop preparing orders for me and for those lining up behind me. I ordered a ridiculous amount of food (I had a hard time narrowing what I wanted from the menu . . . what’s new?), and he teased me about having a healthy appetite. Let me say now, if I could have kept that bounty all to myself, I would have.
John and I dove into the gumbo z’herbes before I could even get a picture and the scents wafting through the house made it harder to wait for the rest. John got the “Devil Made Me Do It!” Nashville hot fried chicken sandwich piled high with sweet heat slaw and served on griddled sticky buns. The plate included a hefty helping of cold pasta salad and fixins for the sandwich like sliced pickles, and fresh lettuce and tomato.
I chose a slow-cooked pork shoulder with Jezebel Sauce (a spicy sweet pineapple and apple jelly with mustard and horseradish), an addictive, buttery corn pudding and asparagus. For dessert, we shared a huge slab of blackberry, raspberry and Meyer lemon ooey-gooey cake.
Say what you want about him. Vazquez’s hours are creative, he’s known to be a stubborn curmudgeon who does what he wants, when he wants, and he frequently complains about the stifling local weather. But I for one (and many others, I’m sure) hope he never leaves, because despite his shortcomings, Chef Vazquez is one hell of a cook.
*Note – I hope you forgive my photos. It was dark that night and take-out rarely pictures well. But don’t you dare let that stop you from trying Chef Pete’s food. It’s easily some of the best you’ll ever have the pleasure of eating!