Courtesy of MoPho and Maypop Restaurants
Courtesy of Maypop
Squash leaf malfatti dumplings with chanterelles, fermented black bean tapenade, and house-cured pancetta from Maypop
New Orleans chef Michael Gulotta explores the unique influence of Vietnamese cuisine in the renowned food city.
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No city defines “fusion” quite like New Orleans—especially when it comes to food. Every facet of the port city’s culinary personality is rooted in the different cultures brought there by immigrants from around the world, from the iconic Cajun and Creole cuisines to the more recent blossoming of Vietnamese influence in the city’s best kitchens.
Just over 40 years ago, after the fall of Saigon, large waves of Vietnamese refugees settled in New Orleans, due in large part to the southern city’s climate, which is similar to that of Vietnam. Over time, the ingredients and dishes that they brought with them became a staple of New Orleans’s unique culinary tradition. Now, many of the city’s top chefs are elevating this blend of flavors to fine dining, but one chef in particular has taken Southeast Asian influences to new levels: Michael Gulotta.
Gulotta, who was born and raised in New Orleans, has worked as a chef in a range of places, from Italy’s Ligurian Coast to Germany’s Black Forest. Still, no flavors inspire him more than the ones he’s found in his hometown. Gulotta’s MoPho, a neighborhood spot in Mid-City, is described as the place where “the Mekong Delta meets the Mississippi River.” His more recently opened restaurant, Maypop, expands on MoPho’s Southeast Asian fusion-style food with classic European influences. We spoke with Gulotta about the distinct influence of Vietnamese flavors on Louisiana’s traditional cuisine. Here’s what he told us.
What inspired you to start cooking “New Orleans meets Southeast Asia” cuisine in the first place?
“There is something that has always interested me about taking ingredients and turning them into something completely different. Previously, I ran a restaurant that was, like, the preeminent spot for Creole fine dining in New Orleans. When I opened MoPho, and later Maypop, I wanted to include the flavors that I’d always craved when I wasn’t at work. It wasn’t until after we opened MoPho that we started to figure out all of the existing parallels between Southeast Asian food and classic Louisiana cuisine—and there are a lot, once you start looking into it.”
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