Restaurants staying busy feeding first responders, utility crews

As the extent of Hurricane Ida’s impact is revealed, restaurants are getting busy cooking, even while some are also juggling their own recovery.

A lack of power this week at most of its restaurants prompted City Group Hospitality to start cooking proteins that had begun to thaw, Director of Operations Jeff Conaway says. Only two sites had power as of Wednesday: City Pork Catering on Government Street and Rouj Creole restaurant in Perkins Rowe. Using a mobile smoker, workers prepared pecan-smoked pork and chicken wings, and prepped boudin rice and other sides, Conaway says. Then on Tuesday, they loaded the meals into a City Pork catering truck and headed down I-10.

“We were trying to get to LaPlace, but we couldn’t get through road closures,” Conaway says. “We ended up going to Gretna. We were looking for emergency responders.”

The team donated the meals to workers at one of the area’s Ochsner Health System sites, Conaway says.

While the restaurant group waits for power to be restored at City Pork’s two locations, City Slice, Beausoleil and its two LSU-based cafés, the company has ratcheted up its disaster relief catering from the Government Street store, Conaway says. “We’re preparing to feed a lot of utility workers,” he says.

Frank’s Restaurant has been preparing boxed lunches for utility workers, the National Guard and FEMA, while also juggling supply chain issues related to product delivery. Owner Frank Dedman III says that generator power has enabled the restaurant to keep employees busy so they can earn a salary while filling community need.

“Hurricane Ida is one for the history books,” Dedman says. “We believe as a company it’s our privilege to serve the community in times like these. When disasters occur, we step up and feed our National Guardsmen, FEMA, power crews and now, with the addition of full standby generators, our community.”

The Acadian Thruway location of Ruby Slipper Cafe, which has not yet reopened, announced plans to give away free breakfast and lunch to Baton Rouge residents on Thursday and Friday. The restaurant will provide free scrambled eggs, grits, bacon or sausage and a biscuit for breakfast, and a hamburger or chicken sandwich and a fountain drink for lunch while supplies last. First responders are encouraged to call ahead and reserve their order.

The popular barbecue spot, BRQ, still does not have power, but the restaurant has had constant requests for catering from first responders and utility workers both in southeast Louisiana and in Baton Rouge, chef owner Justin Ferguson says. The restaurant has been able to prepare meals at its partner business, the Louisiana Culinary Institute. Working with corporate partner Hancock Whitney Bank, BRQ prepared and delivered 8,000 meals for first responders and community members in St. John the Baptist Parish on Wednesday.

“Really, (we’re) just inundated with people requesting food,” Ferguson says.

And with most southeastern Louisiana restaurants temporarily out of commission, demand will no doubt continue for Baton Rouge eateries to step up to the plate.