Over the next few weeks we will be introducing our new class of Chefs to Watch for 2016. Today we have a Q&A with Chef Ashely Roussel of Simone’s Market. On October 20, 2016, we will host a dinner to showcase the talents and achievements of our 2016 Chefs to Watch in the New Orleans French Quarter at Marche´. Tickets are available here.
Chefs to Watch: You were recognized as a 2016 Louisiana Cookin’ “Chef to Watch” for your work at Saint Street Inn in Lafayette, but you have since moved on to a new role and a new city. Where are you now and why did you move?
Ashley Roussel: I joined the team starting up Simone’s Market in uptown New Orleans a couple of months ago. I’ve been in the industry for 15 years, and I’m approaching my 34th birthday. I’ve put a lot of time and energy into restaurants, helping other chefs and owners move their visions forward. I’ve enjoyed doing that, but I now have the opportunity to move my own vision forward at Simone’s.
CTW: Tell us about Simone’s Market.
AR: It’s as if a grocery store and a farmer’s market had a baby, and I’ll be cooking and overseeing all of the prepared foods that we will sell to our customers.
Everything will be high quality, and Simone Reggie and the rest of the team will have vetted everything in the store. For instance, we may have only two types of olive oil — one for every day, one for finishing — but our customers will know both those olive oils will be excellent. We want to keep options limited so people don’t suffer from decision fatigue, but we will have everything you need to make great food for you and your family in the store.
CTW: What makes Simone’s unique compared to other markets?
AR: Aside from having a resident chef (laughter)? We know the farmers that are the sources our produce, eggs, and the meats at the butcher counter. We have extensively tested the offerings of any company whose products we will have on the shelves. We will source things locally when possible, and if we bring in things from outside the region, we will source the best and most responsible things. Our decisions are very conscious so that our customers know they can trust our selections. It will hopefully make shopping for great food more fun and convenient than at other, similar markets.
CTW: What about working at Simone’s has you most excited?
AR: I’ve been looking for a niche that would allow me to make food, be creative, and develop great relationships with farmers and purveyors. I love seeing the farms up close and personal, the way the farmers and producers care about their products. They are making the things we will ultimately eat, and their passion and attention is awe inspiring
I’m also excited about being in New Orleans. I’ve been here for a couple of weeks, and it’s the happiest I’ve been in this industry in a long time. I can have a life outside the four walls of a restaurant working in the market, and that’s not an opportunity many chefs have.
CTW: What is different about preparing food for market customers rather than restaurant diners?
AR: In a restaurant, your only thought is making food for your customers as fast as possible and serving it at either the hottest or coldest temperature depending on the dish. Now, I have to think completely differently, because the dish is out of my hands as soon as it leaves the market.
This means I have to think about the integrity of the ingredients and whether my talents will even show through by the time the customer gets the dish home. I have to wonder how will this dish re-heat? I don’t want to compromise the beautiful ingredients that we will be showcasing, so I have to find ways to make the dishes work so that people at home can taste what I’m trying to do as a chef.
CTW: Had you spent much time in New Orleans before moving there to work at Simone’s?
AR: Both my mother and father are from New Orleans, and I grew up on the Northshore. I used to stay with my grandmother a lot in New Orleans. New Orleans has always been a second home for me, and I’m excited to be here full time and working on something very special.
CTW: Can people start experiencing your food before the market opens?
AR: Yes! We will be set up in front of the market at 8207 Oak Street during the Oak Street Po’ Boy Festival, and if you have not been to that, it’s a must-go event. I’ve been researching what other restaurants have done for that festival in the past, and we will be representing strong that day.
We also plan on making prepared foods for Thanksgiving that you can pick up at the market. We likely won’t be finished with construction before mid-December, so Thanksgiving will be a great way for us to introduce ourselves at the market.
If you are interested in learning more about our Thanksgiving options, or the market in general, visit our website www.simonesmarket.com and sign up for our email updates.
CTW: Great, thanks again for sitting down and chatting with us, can’t wait to try your food at the market soon.