- Associated Press - Saturday, June 7, 2014

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - New Orleans’ chef John Besh will collaborate with Mexican-American chef Aarón Sánchez to create Johnny Sánchez, a taquería, in the city’s Central Business District.

Nola.com/The Times-Picayune reports (https://bit.ly/1j3y8lw) the restaurant, whose name is a combination of both men’s names, is scheduled to open in the fall in a space that housed Ste. Marie restaurant, which closed in May.

The menu will focus on tacos, tostadas and ceviches along with a few larger plates.

The men say the venture won’t just be a collaboration of two chefs but a collaboration between two friends. Early in his career, Sanchez worked in New Orleans under Paul Prudhomme. That was where he met Besh. The two reconnected in 2007 when they competed in the first season of the Food Network’s “Next Iron Chef.”

“Aaron Sanchez is practically family,” Besh said.

Sánchez already spends a lot of time in New Orleans. Eventually, he wants to buy a home in New Orleans and split time between it and New York. “I have the most spontaneous moments of my life when I go to New Orleans,” Sánchez said.

Johnny Sánchez will marry Sánchez’s deep knowledge of Mexican cooking with Besh’s focus on using high-quality local ingredients.

“I can tell you that it will embody our personalities,” Sánchez said. “John really admires this cuisine, very much the way I identify with Louisiana food. For me it’s a little deeper because that’s who I am as a person. I come from this culinary legacy.”

Sánchez, who’s also a judge on “Chopped” on the Food Network, is known for his knowledge of traditional Mexican cuisine, but while Johnny Sánchez will incorporate classic ingredients and sauces, it will also veer beyond the tradition.

“What if we use those same ingredients and have that same core essence?” Sánchez said. “That’s what John does with Louisiana food.”

The menu will let guests order a few inexpensive tacos or dishes with more exotic ingredients and high prices.

“A lot of people are really belittling the idea of taquería,” Sánchez said. “It’s become very casual and lowbrow. Not that we’re going to do something upscale and pretentious. That’s just not us.”

Miles Landrem, who works at Besh’s flagship restaurant August, will be the chef de cuisine at Johnny Sánchez.

Once Johnny Sánchez opens, you’ll likely find Besh and Sánchez there often, both working and relaxing.

“John and I, we’ve gone the route of more formal restaurants, the restaurants that people expect from us,” he said. “This is really the place that we want to hang out at.”

The first Johnny Sánchez is scheduled to open in August.


Information from: The Times-Picayune, https://www.nola.com

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