Ye Olde College Inn: A Family Business
Ye Olde College Inn is a family business in the truest sense of the term. Not only is it run by a family, but many of the family members are frequently present… even the children and grandchildren. Of course, Ye Olde College Inn is also a favorite of families all across the city.
Family is a theme that shines through in our interview with John and Johnny Blancher.
Recycling cooking oil into biofuel, donating used equipment and growing some of their own food are a few of the ways three New Orleans restaurant and hospitality businesses are shrinking their carbon footprints.
Haley Bitterman, corporate executive chef and director of operations for the Ralph Brennan Restaurant Group; Ann Tuennerman, founder of the Tales of the Cocktail festival; and Johnny Blancher, vice president and executive chef Ye Olde College Inn, made up the panel for a discussion on restaurant sustainability efforts at the Louisiana Restaurant Association’s August 2012 trade show in New Orleans.
Here’s how they put five eco-friendly solutions to work:
Plant a garden. The Ralph Brennan Restaurant Group (RBRG), which has experimented with rooftop gardens, is working on a plan to grow herbs in the sculpture garden next to the New Orleans Museum of Art in City Park. The produce will flavor dishes at the company’s Café Nola, located inside the museum, and Ralph’s on the Park, an upscale eatery nearby.
The proprietors of Ye Old College Inn purchased several lots across the street from the restaurant and turned them into The College Farm, where they grow a variety of vegetables, fruits and herbs, including sugarcane.
Recycle waste. Chickens at The College Farm don’t just produce fresh eggs for the menu. They feed on kitchen waste and convert it into compost material for the garden. RBRG provides compost for the urban gardens of the nonprofit New Orleans Green Roots, while Tales of the Cocktail (TOTC) donated nearly 16,000 pounds of compost to the Hollygrove Community Garden this year.
TOTC also recycled the cardboard packaging the 5,000 bottles of liquor and 48,000 swag items from the event. Both RBRG and Ye Olde College Inn recycle cooking oil into biofuel.
Conserve resources. RBRG restaurants are washing their dishes green. They installed water-saving spray nozzles that use only a third of the water that conventional models do.
TOTC organizers switched from printing their media kit to providing it on a USB drive before they finally posted it online. The previously printed, 650-page recipe book became a searchable e-book.
Reuse old materials. RBRG turns office paper into waiters’ pads and prints on both sides of memos. They also donate old equipment to local charities.
“For instance, when we closed down Bacco, we reached out to different charities to see who could use the chairs,” Bitterman says. “If we have plate ware that is left over, we try and donate it locally instead of throwing it away.”
Use eco-friendly supplies and equipment. Energy-efficient lighting and environmentally friendly chemicals are two more tools RBRG employs to make its operations more sustainable. But Bitterman admits it’s challenging to raise the green chemicals usage above the current 80 percent.
“We’re having a very hard time finding something eco-friendly that really deals with grease on the floors and in the kitchens,” she says. She also noted that while her company has been able to switch to biodegradable to-go containers, thanks to its volume buying power, for many smaller operations the move is not as affordable.
Tuennerman offered another reason many restaurants haven’t yet made the switch: “I think some of these places order in such bulk that, unfortunately, they have a lot of Styrofoam sitting in the back.”
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“One of my favorites is Ye Old College Inn,” says Brees of this upscale American pub, a neighborhood staple since the end of Prohibition. “It has a ‘Cheers’ feel to it,” he says. “I’ve seen Harry Connick Sr. there a number of times.” Like many other Crescent City classics, Hurricane Katrina pummeled this city landmark on August 29, 2005. “It was completely destroyed,” says Brees, “but the owners tore it down, turned that space into a parking lot, and rebuilt it next door with a small bowling alley, Rock ‘n’ Bowl, behind it.” So what’s his perfect night on South Carrollton Avenue? “Rock ‘n’ Bowl has a little bar with a stage and live music every night,” says Brees. “So, I go bowl, listen to the music, have some drinks, and then go eat at Ye Old College Inn.”
Louisiana Cookin’ Aug/Sept 2012
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LOUISIANA COOKIN’ MAGAZINE
ANNOUNCES 11TH ANNUAL CHEFS TO WATCH AWARDS
Delicious Decisions: Five Louisiana Chefs Honored with Prestigious Title
New Orleans, LA —This year Louisiana Cookin’s statewide network of culinary enthusiasts
nominated a record number of chefs for consideration for the prestigious award. After
much eating and discussion, the list was narrowed to five talented young chefs who possess an
understanding and respect for Louisiana’s unique culinary heritage while exhibiting the
creativity and energy needed to engage today’s diners. The 2012 Chefs to Watch Awards go to:
• Ryan Andre, Executive Chef, Le Creole, Baton Rouge
• Manny Augello, Executive Chef, Jolie’s Louisiana Bistro, Lafayette
• Lindsay Mason, Executive Chef, Cristiano Ristorante, Houma
• Brad McGehee, Executive Chef, Ye Olde College Inn, New Orleans
• Zac Watters, Owner/Executive Chef, Zachary’s Restaurant, Mandeville
Over the past 11 years, the Chefs to Watch program has raised over $100,000 for Café
Reconcile, a nonprofit organization that trains at-risk youths to lead productive lives through
culinary education and job placement and various other charitable organizations around the state.
Congratulations to our 2012 Chefs to Watch award winners. They will be featured in the August
edition of Louisiana Cookin’ magazine. Call 888.884.4114 for more information on the awards
dinner, scheduled for August 20th at the Theatre at Harrah’s New Orleans, to honor these chefs,
showcase their talents, and help mentor new talent in the culinary industry.
Bradley McGehee is interviewed by Todd A. Price
Ye Olde College Inn now has two farms, a lot on Fig Street and several plots facing Carrollton Avenue. How involved are you in the operations of the farms?
I’ll go over there in the morning to pick herbs. We’re getting into fall, and we’re getting into the big bounty. When stuff is rolling over there, I’m there every morning picking cherry tomatoes and tomatillos and eggplants.
Are there certain dishes at Ye Olde College Inn that you can’t change?
You can’t touch the onion rings, not that I would want to. The hamburger steak is always going to be here. The veal cutlet is always going to be there. We use the same tenderizer that they’ve been using probably since 1933.
Have you been able to tweak some of those classics?
When I got here, right away we started marinating meats. We started using fresh vegetables. We used to just serve sauteed squash on the side. Now we have a mix of broccoli, Brussels sprouts, watermelon radish, turnips, baby carrots. It’s a huge variety. We cook it to order in a little bit of butter and salt and pepper. We’re grinding our own meat now using Louisiana grass-fed beef.
What are some of the new dishes that you’ve rolled out?
We’re adding a braised lamb shank that’s cooked sous vide, which we’re serving with a whole-grain mustard-lamb reduction. We’re doing a wild mushroom-red wine reduction on our steak, and before it was just a dry piece of steak with salt and pepper on spinach.
The College Inn Farm is a project that currently provides a variety of fresh produce. The focus of the farm changes seasonally. Herbs are a year round item of the farm and provide an ultra fresh compliment to our menu. The seasonality of the vegetables and fruits help enhance the creativity of our specials. Additionally, fresh farm eggs provide a great twist at times. Currently, nine Buff Orpington and four Rhode Island Reds reside at the farm providing us with a steady supply of rich, deep orange yolks. The flock, affectionately referred to as the Cock-a-doodle Convent, give some life to the grounds as they enjoy pecking about the farm searching for the goodies they enjoy. This traditional breakfast item is presented in unique ways for dinner, sometimes changing the common held perception of the egg.
David Grunfeld, The Times-Picayune
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Best of Show: Ye Olde College Inn’s Bread Pudding Po-Boy
I made a beeline when we arrived to taste the bread pudding po-boy. It was a whole loaf of bread made into bread pudding, and somehow fried. It was pretty darned yummy.
Ye Olde College Inn also won last year’s Best of Show award, for their Fried Green Tomatoes and Shrimp Remoulade Po-boy.
The festival on Oak Street turnout was no doubt enhanced by the most spectacular weather imaginable. When I arrived at 11:45 a.m., there were already hundreds of people on the street in advance of the noon starting time, as some of the artists were still setting up, the beer trucks were still finding cups, and food booths were gearing up.
It looked like the crowds were just as plentiful as they were for the first festival, when 10,000 people packed Oak Street like sardines.This year, traffic flow was vastly improved, although still crowded in spots. My sometimes-cranky husband said the festival should ban bicycles, strollers and dogs, but for a free street festival, I can’t see it. In fact, there was a place for canine watering this year, so dogs were specifically welcome.
Several restaurants along the expanded five-block festival route were serving food other than po-boys, including the sushi restaurant Ninja and the new barbecue joint, Squeal, which even had a guy with a big sign standing out in the traffic touting their $8 ribs.
Another welcome innovation was the addition of two big dining tents, set off on side streets. The one history panel I managed to see, on the history of muffulettas, was excellent, but sparsely attended.
Judy Walker, Times Picayune
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By Angus Lind / Times-Picyune
June 10, 2008, 5:00AM
When the John Blancher family bought Ye Olde College Inn five years ago, little did they know that the cast of characters they were inheriting at the Carrollton Avenue restaurant and bar would rival Norm’s gang from TV’s “Cheers.”
Cartwright Eustis IV is such a regular at Ye Olde College Inn that the menu features a steak named after him, the chefs wear coats with his face embroidered on them, and his picture is in numerous pictures and drawings on the wall.
Chief among those is a round-faced, rosy-cheeked, pudgy, always-smiling, fun-loving cutup named Cartwright Eustis IV — a creature of habit who probably has logged more hours at College Inn than anyone else, with the exception of former owner Emile Ruffin, whose family began the business in 1933.
By: Susan Langenhennig/Times-Picayune
May 16, 2008
A D.H. Holmes shopping bag is framed in a shadow box. A large painting pays tribute to Mr. Bingle. A quote from Ernie K. Doe — “I’m cocky but I’m good” — is scrawled across a wall plaque.
And general manager John Blancher II wears seersucker pants with his white chef’s coat as he greets guests on warm summer days in the dining room.
Fashion trends may come and go, but during sultry New Orleans summers, lightweight seersucker is always in style.
The striped cotton is so closely associated with the South in general, and the Crescent City in particular, that the Ogden Museum of Southern Art salutes the traditional summer suit during its annual Sippin’ in Seersucker fundraiser, held tonight at the Shops at Canal Place.
In this episode of New Orleans Chefs, sponsored by DCS by Fisher & Paykel, Johnny Blancher from Ye Olde College Inn prepares barbecue shrimp.