Apr 1, 201309:56 AM
The Editor's Room
Weekly Commentary with New Orleans Magazine’s Errol Laborde
Save Tujague's – Part 2: Facing the Choices
My Mac’s screensaver shows an eagle in mid-flight between a waterfall and a cliff. I stare at the image often. The eagle can either head toward the waterfall where he will be plunged violently into a stream or he can turn toward the top of the cliff and go on with his life. The choice between wrong and right seems so obvious.
That comes to mind when I think about the Tujague’s situation. As the rumors have it, the historic restaurant is facing two options; being sold to a man who will turn it into a T-shirt and souvenir shop including a fried chicken stand, or being sold to Chef John Besh’s group. If the building becomes a T-shirt shop, it will have lost its historic significance; the entire block will be less important and those who come to New Orleans to experience the culture will experience instead just one more place trying to make trinkets out of that culture. The city will be less special, plunging into its own whirlpool.
If, instead, the building is sold to the Besh group, then the last of the Creole restaurants will be in the hands of a distinguished restaurateur who will no doubt upgrade the property and maintain the restaurant’s reputation. The Tujague name will live on. New generations will be able to sample the classic Creole dishes; the legacy of the late Steven Latter will have survived.
I am told that there was plenty of social media chatter last week urging Besh to get involved and begging Stanford Latter, Steven Latter’s brother who owns the building, to sell to Besh.
There’s a lot that we don’t know including who is talking to whom, how much money is being talked about and how much good will there is. If there is any of the latter, the restaurant should go to Besh.
We understand that this is business and that business can sometimes be ruthless, but the businessses that are remembered are those that have grace and originality. Also there are times when circumstances call on business leaders to make decisions based on the civic good.
For the sake of the city, we wish Mr. Latter a good landing.