Jackie, 32 is from South Louisiana and grew up along Bayou Lafourche in Assumption Parish. She got her bachelor's degree in culinary arts at Nicholls State University in Thibodaux, LA. After graduation (and Hurricane Katrina) in 2006, she moved to Napa Valley to work for Thomas Keller at The French Laundry and Bouchon. She later went on to work at Frasca (Boulder, CO), Blue Hill at Stone Barns (Westchester, NY), and Restaurant August (New Orleans, LA) as exec sous chef. It was during her four years at August that she met Brandt .
Brandt, also 32 is from North Mississippi, grew up in Oxford. He attended Ole Miss, and after college, he worked in a few restaurants in his hometown, quickly moving up the ranks. He then decided to attend the French Culinary Institute in NYC where he got his formal culinary training, as well as being among the opening staff at David Burke's Town House. After graduation, he headed to New Orleans to take a position at Restaurant August. There, he met Jackie. This is where their story begins.
During their time together in SF, they lived across the street from Town Cutler, a small, curated knife shop with a sharpening service. They began to frequent the shop, using their sharpening service weekly and getting to know the owner, a former chef, Galen. This became the inspiration for the inception of Coutelier. They began to ask themselves why New Orleans did not have the kind of shop that catered to culinary professionals, as well as the serious home cooks of South Louisiana, and offered quality gear for cooks as well as sharpening and repair services, given the immense culinary footprint of the city. They decided it was time to work for themselves, even if that meant not opening the restaurant they wanted right away.
Coutelier NOLA opened it's doors in the early Fall of 2015 and is New Orleans's first professional-grade kitchen cutlery store, serving professional chefs and dedicated home cooks alike. Also, supporting local makers in the kitchen product category (Holt McCall aprons + Tchoup Industries knife rolls).
What is your first memory of someone wearing an apron?
Jackie: I have the fondest memories of cooking with my maw-maw, Marilyn. She wore a short tan apron with blue and creme flowers on it with worn pockets.
Brandt: My grandmother made her living waiting tables in a small country kitchen in Selmer, TN. I always remember the short, black bistro aprons that she would wear while tending to her many hungry guests.
We designed aprons specific for your shop based off of an apron Jacqueline got in Spain. Can you give me the history on that apron and the functionality of why you like that design so much?
Jackie: The aprons we based our design off of were the aprons that the cooks wore at the famed 3 Michelin star, El Bulli (Roses, Spain). Which is now closed. Years ago, my friend did a season there, so I gave him one of my French Laundry aprons for one of his El Bulli aprons. I loved it for it's light, sleek design and simplicity. It quickly became my favorite apron. It was easy to adjust, it fell at my chest in just the right place, the sillouette was slim and sleek, and the small brass grommets gave just the right amount of industrial flare. It was just long enough and it didn't bunch up (I hate when you constantly have to re-tie and re-adjust an apron as your movements compound in a kitchen). The apron performed and functioned effortlessly in a fast paced, unforgiving environment. So since Ferran Adria has closed El Bulli, I wanted to pay tribute to that apron in our design with Holt/McCall. We added the pocket for easy access to pens, sharpies, and tweezers.
Having spent a lot of time in Japan training knife sharpening skills and all culinary and cultural aspects, what can you tell me about the Japanese apron culture and history? We're so intrigued by their beautiful lines, fabrics and designs.
Jackie: In Japan, apron culture is real. The kappogi apron was originally introduced in the early 1900's as an apron to cover the kimonos most women wore on a daily basis. It's almost like a gown slip with baggy sleeves.
We love the vintage spoons for sale in your shop, can you please tell us a little bit about the tasting spoon as a chef's tool and where you get your spoons?
Cooks can have the same affinity for vintage spoons as they do for knives... both are imperative tools in daily use and both are extensions of your hand. I'm probably crazier and more protective of my spoon collection that I am about my knives. I've spent years collecting them from around the world, looking for very specific shapes, bowl depth, how it tapers to a point, etc... the ones you can just crush a one-handed quenelle with, or baste the fuck out of a piece of fish or meat. The patina is very important, it shows age and character. It ages with you. Some of my most prized spoons came from flea markets in France. I look for the stamped sterling kind with a deep bowl and dramatic tip on the end. Needless to say, I pride myself on my spoon game. If I lost a spoon during service, shit would shut down till I found it. So when we opened the shop, I wanted to make curating vintage plating spoons a feature because I know what most cooks are searching for in an epic plating spoon. It's important; and the great ones are hard to find. I have a friend who lives in the south of France who helps me find the cherries... she knows what I'm looking for.
How does living in NOLA influence your work as chefs and as shop owners?