New Orleans native and Crescent City enthusiast review Chef’s Kitchen’s newest pop-up: ‘A Taste of New Orleans’

The Chronicle’s self-proclaimed expert food critics Abby Spiller and Zoe Kolenovsky sampled the culinary offerings of Chef’s Kitchen’s new installation: “A Taste of New Orleans.” 

At Chef’s Kitchen, WU’s second floor restaurant pop-up series, students can indulge in foods from around the world. The menu changes every six weeks, and the location is open for lunch from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on weekdays. In the previous installation, students got a sample of Hawaiian cuisine in "A Taste of the Hawaiian Islands.

Kolenovsky is a proud New Orleanian herself, while Spiller hails from Boston. Kolenovsky drew on her hometown knowledge to rate the dishes based on authenticity, and the two collaborated to score each menu item based on taste. Each dish was ranked on a scale of one to 10, with one signifying “truly horrendous” and 10 denoting “downright delightful.”



Authenticity: 7/10

Taste: 8/10

Kolenovsky insisted that we try the etouffee, a New Orleans classic. At first glance, the plating did not exude much promise. Yet, upon indulging in the chicken, shrimp and rice dish, we were pleasantly surprised. The etouffee itself was good (about a 6.5/10), but what made it truly great was the cajun aioli, which contained notes of zesty Southern hot sauce. However, the dish is not traditionally served with a sauce, and mixing chicken and shrimp in the dish is “normal for gumbo, but interesting for etouffee,” according to Kolenovsky.

Spiller had not tried etouffee prior to this food ranking. Upon trying the dish, she noted how she enjoyed the array of seasonings incorporated within the dish. Although it is not something that she would typically choose to order, it was a nice change of pace. She agreed with Kolenovsky that the cajun aioli elevated the flavor of the dish.

Lowcountry boil

Authenticity: 2/10

Taste: 4/10

Chef’s Kitchen’s “lowcountry boil” consists of shrimp, sausage, corn and potatoes boiled in a cajun seasoning mix and served in a plastic bag, with gloves provided. Kolenovsky expressed that this plating style is typical for a New Orleans seafood boil but that the dish’s faithfulness to tradition stops there. According to her, the only element of the dish that was seasoned properly was the potatoes; every other component lacked in cajun flavor. The shrimp in particular left much to be desired — a combination of being overcooked and too lightly seasoned resulted in an underwhelming final experience.

Kolenovsky also explained that the traditional New Orleans seafood boil has crawfish as the main component — a shrimp-based “lowcountry boil” actually draws its roots from cuisine along the southern Atlantic coast. After also finding a hard-boiled egg in the mix, she characterized the dish as a whole as “obscenely mid.”

As a self-proclaimed seafood boil connoisseur, Spiller also agreed with Kolenovsky’s take and thought this dish fell short. A side note to those hoping to try this dish — learn from our mistakes and do not wait longer than a few minutes to eat it, or else the butter will harden up.

Side dishes

Sweet potato fries

Authenticity: 4/10

Taste: 7/10

Kolenovsky and Spiller did not have much to say about the sweet potato fries. They were a bit cold and are not known as a traditional New Orleanian delicacy. According to Spiller, JB’s Roast and Chops has better sweet potato fries. Kolenovsky gave the dish additional taste points due to sampling it immediately after the intensely disappointing lowcountry boil.

Cajun pasta

Authenticity: 1/10

Taste: 3/10

The Chef’s Kitchen’s “cajun pasta” more closely resembles a pasta salad that consists of bowtie noodles served cold with a thin, cream-based coating. “Cajun pasta” typically has a thicker, more flavorful sauce and would be served hot, likely paired with a protein. Ultimately, this dish lacked authenticity and had an unexciting taste.

Honorable mention: French bread

Authenticity: 8/10

Taste: 9/10

While not included on the menu, every dish at A Taste of New Orleans is served with a piece of French bread that ended up being the highlight of the experience. Similar to a baguette but lighter and crispier, French bread is a staple of New Orleans cuisine, and Chef’s Kitchen’s rendition did not disappoint.


Bananas foster French toast

Authenticity: 8.5/10

Taste: 9.5/10

The bananas foster French toast is technically offered as an entree; however, due to its sweet nature, we decided to reclassify it as a dessert.

Spiller was a bit skeptical about this dish, since she does not like French toast — or breakfast foods at all, for that matter. However, to her surprise, she fell in love with this one and gave it a near-perfect score. The cinnamon flavor nicely complemented the (mostly) fresh fruit it was served alongside, with no flavor outdoing any other.

Kolenovsky agreed that the French toast was one of the better offerings on the menu. While a traditional bananas foster dessert typically has a stronger banana flavor and more of a caramelized syrup, Chef’s Kitchen’s version was still relatively well-executed and highly enjoyable.


Authenticity: 4/10

Taste: 7/10

This was the dish Kolenovsky was the most apprehensive about coming into this experience, as beignets are notorious for being prepared incorrectly outside of the Crescent City, and she felt that these lowered expectations were met by the Chef’s Kitchen version. A traditional beignet is a square pastry served piping hot, doused in powdered sugar. The ones offered at Chef’s Kitchen were small and rectangular — as if a regular beignet had been cut in half — and were seriously deficient in the powdered sugar department. (Kolenovsky noted that if you don’t leave the table with your clothes covered in white specks, you’re doing it wrong.)

These pastries were denser than traditional ones and thus were not quite as light and fluffy on the inside while remaining crispy on the outside, as a true beignet would have been. Nevertheless, they were still pieces of fried dough covered in sugar and thus were pretty tasty.


New Orleans cold brew

Authenticity: 7/10

Taste: 6/10

Kolenovsky also sampled Chef’s Kitchen’s cold brew. A caffeine fanatic, she is very particular about her coffee and is known to only drink a specific brand of New Orleans-made cold brew when she’s back in the city. She felt that while this version was not as good (but what is?), it had a similar taste to other local brews she has sampled in the past and was all in all a decent cup of joe.

There were a number of menu items that Spiller and Kolenovsky were not able to sample due to their lack of ambitious appetite. Additional entrees include French Quarter chicken, cajun short ribs, blackened tilapia and Louisiana jackfruit. In terms of sides, Chef’s Kitchen also offers cajun coleslaw, sunburst salad and ratatouille. Further sauce options included remoulade and lemon aioli, and the restaurant provided fresh-baked cookies as another dessert option.

Zoe Kolenovsky profile
Zoe Kolenovsky | News Editor

Zoe Kolenovsky is a Trinity sophomore and news editor of The Chronicle's 120th volume.

Abby Spiller profile
Abby Spiller | Editor-in-Chief

Abby Spiller is a Trinity sophomore and editor-in-chief of The Chronicle's 120th volume.


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