Acclaimed chef John grew up hunting and fishing in Southern Louisiana, learning at an early age the essentials of Louisiana’s rich culinary traditions. After graduating from The Culinary Institute of America, his talent and drive have earned John critical kudos from the outset of his career: in 1999, Food & Wine named him one of the “Top 10 Best New Chefs in America.” In 2003, Gourmet magazine included Restaurant August in its “Guide to America’s Best Restaurants,” and in 2006, it cited Restaurant August as one of America’s Top 50 Restaurants. In 2005, John received a nomination for a James Beard Award, and he won the Beard Award for Best Chef of the Southeast in 2006. Also that year, he defeated Chef Mario Batali on Iron Chef America on the Food Network, scoring a victory in the andouille sausage battle. In 2007, John went head-to-head against fellow alumnus Michael Symon (CIA 1990) in Food Network’s series finale of The Next Iron Chef, on November 11, 2007.
The 2007 Zagat Guide rates Restaurant August #1 in New Orleans for both Food and Service. John’s appreciation for local ingredients and local cuisine has only increased since Hurricane Katrina, as he considers these essential to the survival of the peoples and cultural heritage of New Orleans. No one is more keenly aware of the fragility of the region’s culinary culture. In addition to getting his own restaurants, the elegant contemporary Restaurant August and chic Besh Steak, up-and-running as soon as possible after the storm for the benefit of his staff, as well as the morale of his loyal local guests, he was also instrumental in rebuilding other establishments such as Willie Mae’s Scotch House, one of the city’s venerated culinary landmarks.
With his friend and business partner Octavio Mantilla, he acquired the charming and rustic La Provence in Lacombe, LA from his late mentor, legendary Chef Chris Kerageorgiou; and also opened Lüke, a brasserie in the grand New Orleans tradition, a cultural legacy that Besh could not allow to slip away. In addition to restaurants Luke, August, and La Provence, he owns Besh Steak, American Sector, Soda Shop, Borgne, Domenica in New Orleans, and Luke River Walk in San Antonio, TX.
Award winning cookbook author, Besh has written two books, My Family Table: A Passionate Plea for Home Cooking in 2011 and My New Orleans: The Cookbook in 2009. He was co-author with David Newsome of New Orleans Program: Eat, Exercise, and Enjoy Life.
The John Besh Foundation was established in 2011, providing scholarships, grants, and loans to individuals in the New Orleans community with the passion, creativity, and knowledge to enact change in New Orleans and Louisiana. The foundation was created in order to better serve John’s community by bringing a focus to his efforts in New Orleans. That same year John set up a micro loan program to aid New Orleans farmers in rebuilding their businesses. Giving out low-interest loans ranging from $1,000 to $20,000 he continues to support and promote sustainable local farming and dining. The loans are available to farmers within a 200-mile radius of New Orleans.
John is an been the energetic spokesman for the Louisiana Seafood Council, as well as a member of the Southern Foodways Alliance; and a Board Member of the Southern Food and Beverage Museum. He is active in a state promotional program created by former Lieutenant Governor and current New Orleans mayor Mitch Landrieu, who tapped the chef to prepare meals with the media in an effort to showcase the cuisine of Louisiana.