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Career Day

Trophies, ‘Chambongs,’ and food, of course

A restaurateur on why he mixes food with an interactive experience

By Alix Strauss

Brian Landry is the owner of Jack Rose restaurant in New Orleans’ Garden District.

Who is Jack Rose, and why name a restaurant after him? 
Jack Rose is a Tennessee Williams reference. The name comes from two of the main characters’ names in The Rose Tattoo. Jack Rose recently replaced the Caribbean Room in the Pontchartrain Hotel, which is where Williams stayed when he wrote A Streetcar Named Desire. Our bar, Tin House, which is on the hotel’s roof deck, is a nod to Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.  

You’ve implemented a number of interactive activities at Jack Rose. Why?
In the pursuit of creating memorable moments, we use spontaneity as our secret weapon. People quickly learn that Jack Rose is where you can have that quintessential good-time New Orleans experience paired with a progressive menu.

I’m told a special liquid offering has become synonymous with the restaurant.
Each evening we choose certain guests to receive a number of goodies, like our “Chambong.” It’s a champagne flute with an L-shaped hollow stemglass, and we pour about a half a glass of champagne into it. The end of the glass is hollow and works like a traditional beer bong, and you drink out of the small hollow stem. We give out about 150 to 200 a night, which is about 12 to 15 bottles a night. The locals all know they’re starting their evening with a splash of bubbles.

All these little extras create a feeling that anything can happen. I’m not just here to fill my belly.

You also include a lot of creative extras. What are some of the most popular activities?
To include a guest, we will ask them to flip a small switch on the wall that controls our disco ball, suspended among greenery in the skylight. At the end of the evening we give out a “Favorite Guest…Today” trophy. We’ve also added music, so during Sunday brunch we have a pop-up drum line appear and do a lap throughout the dining room. We also work with a local florist that donates all of the rose petals that fall off the arrangements he makes. Our staff will shower them on guests at the end of their meal if they’re celebrating an anniversary or birthday. 

What do you hope a guest gets out of your restaurant experience?
All these little extras create a feeling that anything can happen. I’m not just here to fill my belly. People come here because it’s not just a dinner; it’s an experience. I don’t want them to go home with the trophy; I want them to try for it. I want them to want the interaction. We’re asking them to trust us, to become part of the play. 

What are some things about the décor that stand out? 
Really everything. The interior design is a masterpiece by Andrew Alford. His personal motto is “F*ck Beige.” It’s colorful, eclectic, and highlights local artists. The Main Room is black and showcases everything from a stuffed peacock to a disco ball to a hanging fern. The Rose Room is hot pink. And the Mile High Pie room is painted turquoise, has wallpaper on the ceiling and a sculpture of phallic mile-high pies.

What are your favorite moments during the evening? 
It’s when the kitchen feels like a ballet and the dining room feels like a rock concert. I get to walk back and forth between the two rooms as they interact with one another. I helped create that. All of the hard work has culminated into that moment. 

Do you have a food philosophy? 
To paraphrase Maya Angelou, people will not remember what they ate or what they drank, but they will remember how we made them feel. We like to tug on people’s memory and emotional strings to help transport them. We use food and drink as the vehicle.  


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Alix Strauss is a writer based in New York.

 

Illustration by Verónica Grech

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