Occupation: Executive Chef and CEO, Link Restaurant Group (includes Herbsaint, Cochon, Cochon Butcher, Pêche Seafood Grill, and La Boulangerie)
Years lived in New Orleans: 20
Years worked as a chef: 30
Awards/Accolades: Best New Restaurant for Pêche Seafood Grill, James Beard Foundation (2014)
Restaurateur of the Year, Louisiana Restaurant Association (2012)
Best American Cookbook, “Real Cajun,” James Beard Foundation (2010)
Best Chef: South, James Beard Foundation (2007)
The Best Thing About New Orleans’ Food Scene
I love that the traditional Creole restaurants are a part of the dining scene here and at the same time, I love seeing the new styles evolving, giving us more options as locals. No matter what you want to call the food, it always has a robust layer of flavor and spices you can’t find in other cities. We have great seafood and great products that appear on a lot of the restaurants around town.
Must-Visit Standout Restaurants
My go-to restaurant is Lilette by John Harris. The base of the cuisine here is French and it’s always beautifully prepared and interesting. I consider it to be the prime example of what a New Orleans uptown bistro is supposed to be. The chicken broth soup with poached egg, the crab claws in passion fruit butter, and the duck confit are always spot on.
Every year for my daughter’s birthday I eat at Commander’s Palace; they are a true testament of New Orleans hospitality. I’m usually ordering whatever fresh fish they have on the menu here and the bread pudding soufflé is as famous as it should be.
When I’m in the mood for a steak I head to La Boca for the New York strip with app of deliciously melty provoleta (grilled Argentine cheese). Also need to mention Mr. John’s Steakhouse here, as well. You can always count on a real New Orleans experience here with expertly cooked steaks on sizzling hot plates.
For sushi I head out to Fat City in Metairie to Kanno to have whatever special fish “Elvis” has flown in that day. The dumpling soup and the kobe sushi are worth the trip alone.
Off the beaten path there is a place in LaPlace called Off the Dock, formerly known as the Crab Trap, which has the best crawfish in New Orleans when they’re in season and I’m in love with their gumbo, which is saying a lot. If it’s storming you may want to check the road—the last mile is through the swamp and it tends to flood pretty easily.
Editor’s note: Since publication of this interview, Off the Dock has relocated to Metairie and renamed itself The Catch. Contact details are below.
Personal Favorites from Herbsaint, Pêche, and Cochon
That’s almost an impossible question. Herbsaint is full of my favorites: the duck confit, the watermelon gazpacho, baked Asiago, etc.
Pêche would be the crab and capellini with chilies with its great balance of heat and the delicate flavor of the Louisiana crab meat.
Cochon is the Fisherman style redfish on the half shell—nothing but the great flavor of the fish baked in the wood burning oven with sea salt and extra virgin olive oil.
My Perfect “Dining Out Day”
Favorite Gumbo Spots
My Guilty Pleasure
Fried chicken at Willie Mae’s with a side of butter beans and cornbread. So good.
Best Quick, Cheap Eats
Favorite Watering Holes
Must-Try New Orleans Specialties
Crawfish, cracklins, and boudin. And a muffaletta at Butcher.
The One Thing Any New Orleans Visitor Must Do
Friday lunch at Galatoire’s.
Chef Donald’s Shortlist
Herbsaint, 701 St. Charles Avenue (Warehouse District); French-Southern, lunch Monday-Friday, dinner Monday–Saturday, closed Sunday.
Chef Donald’s restaurant
Favorite dishes: Duck leg confit, watermelon gazpacho, baked Asiago, gumbo.
Cochon, 930 Tchoupitoulas Street (Warehouse District); Cajun, lunch and dinner daily.
Chef Donald’s restaurant
Favorite dishes: Oven-roasted Gulf fish “fisherman’s style,” gumbo.
Cochon Butcher, 930 Tchoupitoulas Street (Warehouse District); butcher shop/sandwich counter/wine bar, lunch daily, dinner Monday–Saturday.
Chef Donald’s shop
Recommended dish: Cochon muffaletta.
Pêche Seafood Grill, 800 Magazine Street (Warehouse District); seafood, lunch and dinner daily.
Chef Donald’s restaurant
Favorite dish: Crab + jalapeno capellini.
La Boulangerie, 4600 Magazine Street (Uptown); French bakery/café, open daily.
Owned by Chef Donald
Recommended breakfast spot.
Lilette, 3637 Magazine Street (Touro); French-Italian, lunch Tuesday–Saturday, dinner Monday–Saturday, closed Sunday.
Recommended dishes: Chicken broth soup with poached egg, Alaskan king crab claws with passion fruit butter, duck confit.
Commander’s Palace, 1403 Washington Avenue (Garden District); haute Creole, lunch Monday–Friday, dinner nightly, brunch Saturday–Sunday.
Recommended dishes: any fresh fish dish, Creole bread pudding soufflé.
La Boca, 870 Tchoupitoulas Street (Warehouse District); Argentine steakhouse, dinner only Monday–Saturday, closed Sunday.
Recommended dishes: Bife de Chorizo (NY strip), provoleta.
Mr. John’s Steakhouse, 2111 St. Charles Avenue (Central City); steakhouse, lunch Friday only, dinner Tuesday-Saturday, closed Sunday–Monday.
Kanno, 3517 20th Street, Metairie, La.; sushi, lunch and dinner Tuesday–Saturday, closed Sunday–Monday.
Recommended dishes: Shrimp shumai dumpling soup, kobe sushi.
The Catch, 3010 Cleary Avenue, Metairie, La.; seafood, lunch and dinner Monday–Saturday, closed Sunday–Monday.
Recommended dishes: crawfish, gumbo.
Brennan’s, 417 Royal Street (French Quarter); Creole, breakfast, lunch, and dinner daily.
Recommended for drinks and snacks.
Bayona, 430 Dauphine Street (French Quarter); contemporary Louisiana, lunch Wednesday–Saturday, dinner Monday–Saturday, closed Sunday.
Recommended for dinner.
Willie Mae’s Scotch House, 2401 St. Ann Street (Treme); Southern, open 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday–Saturday, closed Sunday.
Recommended dishes: Fried chicken, butter beans, cornbread.
The Company Burger, 611 O’Keefe Avenue, Unit C7 (Downtown); burgers, lunch and dinner daily.
Second location: 4600 Freret Street (Freret); lunch and dinner daily.
Recommended item: Burgers.
Popeyes, 621 Canal Street (French Quarter); fast food fried chicken, lunch and dinner daily, late night Friday–Saturday.
Multiple locations in and around New Orleans
Recommended item: Fried chicken.
Guy’s Po-Boys, 5259 Magazine Street (Uptown); po’ boys, lunch only Monday–Saturday, closed Sunday.
Recommended item: Po’ boys.
Bouligny Tavern, 3641 Magazine Street (Touro); cocktail and wine bar, open nightly Monday–Saturday, closed Sunday.
Recommended drink: Old Fashioned.
Cure, 4905 Freret Street (Freret); cocktail bar, open nightly.
Recommended: Specialty drinks.
Kingpin, 1307 Lyons Street (Uptown); pub, open nightly.
Recommended: Beer, whiskey.
Galatoire’s Restaurant, 209 Bourbon Street (French Quarter); French-Creole, lunch and dinner Tuesday–Sunday, closed Monday.
Recommended: Friday lunch.
About the Chef: A native of Louisiana, chef and restaurateur Donald Link grew up with a great appreciation for the region’s cuisine. Gumbo and dirty rice were staples at his granny’s house, and his favorite food memory is of eating such dishes as rabbit and dumplings, creamed corn, collard greens, and fried catfish at his granddad’s.
He first worked in a professional kitchen at 15, but it wasn’t until he was 23 that he decided to fully commit to his craft. His acclaimed restaurants now dot the Warehouse District. Link first opened French-American eatery Herbsaint, then Cochon—a tribute to the Cajun dishes that define his culinary roots—and Cochon Butcher. The acclaimed Peche Seafood Grill—which was named Best New Restaurant by the James Beard Foundation—opened its doors in 2013. In 2016, Link bought La Boulangerie in Uptown, where he resides.