Warren Leruth was the very first chef that Great Chefs taped, at his last restaurant, LeRuth’s (the R is capitalized in the restaurant’s name, not the founder’s). The television crew visited the restaurant in 1980 for the new PBS television series “Great Chefs of New Orleans”. Warren Leruth had a passion for food, and an astonishing acuity of taste, and could easily distinguish flavors consisting of one ten-thousandth of a gram to a 15-ton batch of food.
Warren grew up in New Orleans during the Depression. His mother who was a wonderful baker, and he wanted to be either a chef or scientist. He studied physics at Louisiana State University, but left in the late 40’s to apprentice at Solari’s, a French Quarter food emporium (where Mr. B’s Bistro is now located). He also apprenticed in the kitchens of Galatoire’s, Diamond Jim Moran’s, and the Monteleone Hotel. He joined the National Guard and attended their cook and bake school, before being drafted into the Army where he was a baker, mess hall supervisor and eventually becoming the personal chef to General Mark Clark in Korea.
After service, he landed a job as a bakery service man for Proctor & Gamble and helped develop the Duncan-Hines cake mixes in their food and taste department. He then leveraged that to becoming a bulk oil and shortening salesman for Anderson Clayton in Shreveport, Louisiana. In 1956, he attended their mandatory bakery school that led to a promotion and transfer to Irving, Texas, where eventually he ended up in their R&D department, learning how to scientifically formulate recipes. Although he received his first patent on stabilization of high oil content salad dressings, he is credited with the names “Seven Seas”, Green Goddess, Creamy Italian and Thousand Island for Anderson Clayton’s salad dressings. His time there was the point at which his early ambitions to be a scientist intersected with his chosen profession as a chef.
With the Seven Seas product line migrating from R&D to manufacturing, Leruth needed another outlet for his energy and ambition. His friend and mentor, European chef Ernest Bertschi of Restaurant Monsieur Pepe in Dallas, encouraged him to open a restaurant. He freely shared his knowledge and helped him absorb the secrets of a successful European restaurant. In May of 1963, Chef Warren opened LeRuth’s Restaurant in Sherman, Texas, and he followed that up by being the youngest chef ever elected to the Honorable Golden Toques.
In 1965, Hurricane Betsy destroyed New Orleans. Chef Leruth closed and sold his restaurant to
return to New Orleans to see how he could help rebuild. In 1966, he rebuilt and reopened his new restaurant on the west bank of New Orleans and called it LeRuth’s which had a wonderful 25 year run, closing in 1991. Chef Leruth continued to run a food consulting business whose clients included Outback Steakhouses, Nestle, and Popeye’s (yes, the biscuits)
During his lifetime, he won many, many awards and started what is now known as Chefs Charity for Children, raising millions of dollars.