One more for MauriceMarch 23 2008 at 3:17 AM
|maria (Login maria1919)|
I received this e mail tonite about Chef Maurice Fitzgerald. As I mentioned, he will always hold a place in my heart.
Chef Maurice Fitzgerald was ahead of his time. Even in his eighties, he was forward-looking enough to inspire young chefs with enthusiasm for cooking and the possibilities an avid chef could find in his work.
Maurice died Saturday, March 8, at eighty-five. For the past two years, he lived in Birmingham with family. Until the storm, he was a long-time active member of the faculty in Delgado College's culinary arts program, the major training ground for those wanting careers in cooking in New Orleans.
He came to prominence during the years he ran his family's West End Park seafood restaurant, Fitzgerald's. A look at the restaurant's menu during those years tells a lot about Maurice's personality. Almost all menus of that time were just lists of the dishes available. Maurice thought it would be good to give more details. Sometime he went on for a paragraph or more. I particularly remember his dissertation on the merits of tropical lobster over Maine lobster. (He characterized the latter as being tough.) To fit all this in, the menu at Fitzgerald's grew to an enormous size. It took a very long time to read everything on it.
He sold the seafood restaurant in the 1980s, and returned to the business with a converted bungalow in Bucktown he called Le Chateau Phylmar. That was a smaller and fancier place than Fitzgerald's, even though it lacked the lake view for which Fitzgerald's was renowned. Maurice made up for that with his constant presence in the dining room. An aggressively welcoming host, he passed every table again and again to see how things were.
And to report on what was going on in the kitchen. "Are you the folks who ordered the filet mignon?" he asked. "I saw a couple of those sitting on the grill back there, and they looked as tender as butter!" Anyone who hadn't ordered yet (and these people hadn't) would start thinking about filet mignon, even if they came for fish.
Maurice would have been good on the radio. He had a big, booming voice, perfect enunciation, and tremendous personal presence. And he never ran out of things to talk about.
One of his favorite subjects was that chefs were not taken seriously in New Orleans. Indeed, they weren't. Most chefs before the 1980s were unknown. As soon as Maurice heard about the American Culinary Institute and its certification for chefs, he signed up. He was the first Certified Executive Chef in Louisiana, and he encouraged all other chefs to get certified, too. He ultimately was honored as Lifetime Executive Chef, after he closed his last restaurant and went into teaching.
It could be said (and it was) that Maurice Fitzgerald's restaurants weren't as good as they could have been. But you couldn't help but like the man, and he had many fans. His friendliness and positive attitude about cooking never diminished. His contributions to culinary education, at an age when most chefs were long retired, won him great regard among the restaurateurs of New Orleans.
In the New Orleans chef community, Maurice Fitzgerald will be long remembered. I know of no one like him.
- Re: One more for Maurice - CopCop on Mar 23, 8:47 AM
- Maurice article - Suzy Wong on Mar 23, 8:49 AM