Blue Smoke Executive Chef, Jean-Paul Bourgeois has worked at restaurants all over the world, but his heart and culinary style remain in his native Louisiana. Mixing the different techniques that he learned in France, California, Atlanta, St. Thomas USVI, and New York with his southern roots have made Chef Bourgeois one of the most sought-after young chefs in the restaurant business.
Chef Bourgeois says he first consciously realized how important food was to the people of Louisiana when he was eight years old and witnessed his father take 2nd place in a local parish cook-off. Subconsciously, that moment was likely much earlier, after-all, the award-winning chef has been surrounded by good food for virtually his entire life.
After getting his first gig cooking Creole Italian food as a teenager, Bourgeois worked in several kitchens while attending The Chef John Folse Culinary Institute at Nicholls State University. Upon graduation, he moved to California to gain experience in fine cuisine. While on the west coast, he discovered authentic Mexican food, thus beginning his journey into the appreciation of various cuisines outside of his own.
The self-admitted curious eater loves all different types of food. “Politics tells us that we are becoming less accepting of each other. Except when you look at food,” he says. “Food has the ability to open each other’s eyes to another way of life. “
Bourgeois is able to do that daily at Blue Smoke. The 16-year-old New York City BBQ restaurant began as a place where New Yorkers could choose from dishes that were rooted in traditional BBQ hotspots like Texas, Kansas City, and North Carolina. Upon taking over the menu in 2013, Jean-Paul introduced a menu that represents New York City and takes cues from its southern cousins.
Part of chef Bourgeois brilliance is his ability to cook any cuisine with a signature southern flair. Despite it being one of his greatest strengths, it is something he didn’t always appreciate.
“As I’ve gotten older I’ve realized that I’m prouder today of where I’m from today than I’ve ever been,” he says. “I’m also proud to say that I’m part of this idea of the evolving south and the evolving southerner. As a chef that means my cuisine and my palette has evolved as well, it doesn’t mean that I’m any less of a southerner.”
We can definitely agree with that—Jean-Paul’s dedication to his home is present in all of the menus he creates, right down to the water. When he was selected to head the creation of Porchlight Bar’s southern-inspired cocktails and small bites, Bourgeois knew Mountain Valley Spring Water was ideal for the New York City bar. Jean-Paul and his team wanted to ensure that Porchlight reflected deep southern roots and Mountain Valley Spring Water expressed that perfectly.
As a true ambassador for the last true regional cuisine of America, we are more than proud to have our water is served in Chef Bourgeois’ restaurants. Although it seems as if the rest of the world is finally catching up on Southern cuisine, Bourgeois jokingly says that “It was always cool, everybody else was missing out.” We couldn’t agree more.