Perks of Pêche

Perks of Pêche

Excerpts from Paulette Wooten’s Travel Journal while in New Orleans

Great restaurants rank second on our list of necessities for a good travel experience. I am familiar with individuals who belittle highly-priced dining experiences, but that makes me think they’ve never had one. A satisfying dining experience is vital to your body, soul, and mind. It’s partaking of art, history, and culture in each bite. Time to savor the moment! There are times of abundance and times of scarcity for everyone, but when there’s an opportunity to visit a James Beard award-winning restaurant or a chef. Take it! I think of chefs as rockstars and am always a sucker for their show.

A Satisfying Dining Experience Is Essential For Any Travel Experience.​

While driving into NOLA, I searched for a restaurant and discovered Pêche. Yes, both the restaurant and chef won James Beard awards. And it was only a 10-minute walk from my hotel. No cab. No car. Get some fresh air, stroll, and take in the view. No reservations were available, so we were chancing to get in a table. Our travel motto comes in handy during these times. Que Sera, Sera lead the way.

We arrived at a packed house. The host informed us there was no availability, and we could wait at the bar and maybe get a seat in an hour or so. First come, first served. We put our name in and ordered a Sazerac, Louisiana’s signature cocktail. We had predetermined to find the best Sazerac on Magazine Street. This is our first shot. 

The bar waiting area is an excellent hangout. It’s like you’re outside but still feel a part of the vibrant ambiance inside. The entrance is antique French doors open wide, with tables and chairs on the sidewalk in front of the establishment. It was a touch humid but enough breeze to keep things manageable. 

Kim is no stranger to anyone. She meets you. She greets you. You’re friends. It’s just the way it works out. That night at Pêche was no different. As we were sipping Sazeracs, I noticed she was looking around, eyeing everyone like a little kitten ready to pounce. Instead, she starts a quick conversation with the lady next to us. She doesn’t overstay her welcome or purr too much. She moves back to chat with me, and the wait is not as long as expected. At the bar, in true Que Sera, Sera spirit, we sit next to the intriguing stranger.

Kim is seated between me, and our bar mate, Mũthoni, whom we both have commented oozes calm, cool, and collected. You know those people you pass and are immediately drawn to because of their unique dress and positive energy? Mũthoni was one of those people. 

The bar is noisy, and we start chit-chatting about each other’s drinks and what we’ve ordered for dinner, which eventually leads to where we’re from and why we’re all in New Orleans. We quickly discovered that Mũthoni is from Kenya and her parents still live in Karen outside Nairobi. Ironically, the only town in Nairobi Kim stayed in years ago while singing at a citywide women’s conference. We share our experiences in South Africa and more. This is the beginning of what we now say was our favorite part of our time in New Orleans.

We chatted about various topics from family to food and quickly found more shared experiences than we could discuss in one night. Our conversation deepens as the evening continues until finally, we are passing around our side dishes like we are at a family get-together. 

By the end of the meal, we were sharing our side plates of glazed turnips with citrus and dill, Brussel sprouts with chili vinegar, and some decadent Brabant potatoes with each other like old friends. It was one of those evenings that you want to soak up every drop and savor. 

I snapped a picture of her while she snapped a photo of her exquisite Drum main dish. If I’m reading the room right, I feel she might try her hand at recreating this dish when she’s back home in Oakland. Our conversation had shown me she’s very knowledgeable about wines and fish.

As we left the restaurant together to walk back to our hotels, we exchanged contact info and took a picture. Then, we walked a few blocks together before arriving at our hotel and bid our new friend goodbye with warm embraces. What a beautiful experience we would have missed if we’d been seated at a table or if we had not struck up a conversation with a beautiful stranger. 

Not only did we share food and stories. We followed each other on Instagram. This is official. It’s so official that we snagged an interview with her. (Click here to read)

About Pêche

I failed to tell you more about the restaurant and chef since I was so enthused about our new friend. Pêche, French for “fishing,” is a natural fit for Chef Ryan Prewitt, who sources his seafood from local farmers and fishermen who practice sustainable harvesting. He was awarded a James Beard Foundation Award for Best Chef: South in 2014, and the same year Pêche won a James Beard award for Best New Restaurant in America. In addition, they are both consistently named among New Orleans’ Best.