When Gene Bourg, writing in The Times Picayune, described Richard Hughes’ style of cooking at the Pelican Club as “Excellent…a mix of Louisiana earthiness and New American polish,” he unintentionally described the chef-proprietor’s career. Hughes, a Louisiana native, went from New Orleans to New York, where he orchestrated Eddie Murphy’s New Year’s Eve party (for 700 of the star’s closest friends) and a reception for Henry Kissinger. Then back to New Orleans.
Hughes received his education and culinary training in Louisiana. He has a bachelor of fine arts degree from Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge and attended classes in Hotel and Restaurant Administration at the University of New Orleans. His first apprenticeship was at La Provence in Lacombe, Louisiana, with Chef Chris Kerageorgiou, then he moved across Lake Pontchartrain to progress as saucier at Winston’s in the Hilton, night chef at the Sazarac in The Fairmont, and executive chef at Dante by the River, where he stayed for three years.
Next stop, The Big Apple, where he opened three high-volume restaurants with combined annual sales of $7 million. He planned food concepts, recipes, kitchen organization, and kitchen staff hiring and training for Memphis, Coastal, and 17 West from 1983 to 1989.
In 1992, Great Chefs returned to New Orleans to begin taping a new series titled “Louisiana New Garde”. We caught up with Richard Hughes in the Pelican kitchen to watch him prepare a quail salad appetizer and a filet mignon entree.