Food & Drink

Behind the Kitchen Doors: An Arnaud’s Legend on Good NOLA Eating

Longtime saucier Greg Rosary shares his back-of-house secrets from one of the busiest restaurants in the country

Photo: Jenny Adams Freelance LLC

Since opening in 1918, Arnaud’s in New Orleans’ French Quarter has remained a romantic, delectable stalwart of American dining, seating more than a thousand people an evening when at full tilt. On a busy night, waiters will ferry some three hundred orders of the signature appetizer, Shrimp Arnaud, with shellfish swimming in a slightly spicy remoulade. Turtle soup orders might top 150 bowls.

Behind the scenes, one man has commanded every sauce, soup, and oyster garnish for more than twenty years: Greg Rosary. “It’s a mix of chaos and military precision back here,” says Rosary with a laugh. He began at Arnaud’s as a line cook in 2001, and then rose rapidly in the ranks to sole saucier less than two years later. Today, Rosary’s station includes two sixty-gallon pots with a ladle so heavy most people can’t hold it out straight for more than a minute. Without that strength, along with his skill, fine palate, and epic patience, Arnaud’s would not function as well as one of the world’s largest restaurants—and one of the Crescent City’s most famous.

Here, the back-of-the-house star discusses his tenure in the French Quarter’s culinary scene, his love of barbecue, and how to keep the recipe for Creole sauce he shares in perfect form.  

How did you develop a passion for food?

My grandmother. I began [cooking] when I was eight, growing up in the Northeast. I started getting good, and by the time I was fifteen, I got a job as a prep and line cook at this place called the Paddock in Cape Cod. In college, I got a degree in hotel and restaurant management, but I also worked during those years at Jean’s, which was a little soul food burger joint. 

How did you end up in Louisiana?

I have family down here. It was right after 9/11, when I drove from Cape Cod down to New Orleans. I saw the Twin Towers still smoking as we drove past. I had just had my first child and another on the way, so work was crucial. Chef Tommy [DiGiovanni] hired me as a line cook on the spot. I was one of the last guys Arnaud’s hired right after 9/11. Everyone here is like family. That’s why I’m still here.

How did you go from line cook to saucier?

I was only on the line for about a year and a half, when the saucier before me was moving to Pittsburgh. That job normally takes two months to train for, but I had to do it in two-and-a-half weeks. He gave me his recipe book, and said, “Do it my way first. Then, whatever you find easier, do it that way, just so long as you get the same result.” At the time, I didn’t realize the volumes required!

Tell us about the volumes. Almost every dish at Arnaud’s comes with a sauce, right?

I would say 90 percent of our dishes have a sauce. Then, I make all the stocks, soups, and oyster toppings, too. I make eight gallons of the Charlemond sauce at a time. [The restaurant’s beloved, rich mushroom sauce gets spooned over the filet mignon.] Eight gallons of Charlemond might last us a week, but on busy weeks, we might need twelve gallons. Then there is the au poivre sauce. The glacé for that takes two to three days to make. For our veal stock, we use two hundred pounds of bones. We let that stock go for sixteen hours, and then we strain it. It’s used for the turtle soup. Veal stock is the heart of the soups here.

We hear you have a real heart for barbecue, and you even make your own sauce?

Yeah, it’s called O.G. Wells. Some of my family is from North Carolina. They showed me all the tricks at an early age. Barbecuing to me is mostly about having a good time, so I don’t compete or anything. Here in town, I will sell plates at the house, and people come over, buy some ribs or chicken, and sit around in the yard listening to music. That’s what it’s about to me. 

When you aren’t making sauce at Arnaud’s or hosting people for barbecue, where might we find you?

I love to fish. I have a vegetable garden, and I grow a lot of things. I love boudin and jambalaya, and about once a month, I drive over to Garyville, Louisiana. There’s a place there called the Garyville General Store, and they make a huge pot of jambalaya on Saturdays. It’s the place to be.

Arnaud’s has shared with us the recipe for Eggs Pipérade, a jazz brunch standard, and the required Creole sauce for it. What are your at-home tricks for that sauce?

When you are at home making a sauce, go a little thicker. Thin it just before serving. You can always add, but you can’t take away. This will keep it from breaking as easily.