“I love what food does,” John Besh says, calling from New Orleans after a busy Mardi Gras week. “And I love how we can use food to do good.”
Granted, it’s easy to love what food can do when Besh is in the kitchen. The Louisiana-bred chef helms thirteen acclaimed restaurants—including outposts in Baltimore and San Antonio—but the heart of his work remains largely in New Orleans. “I’m from here, I’m of here, and I often say that I’m gonna die here,” he jokes. But even as his establishments, from Besh Steak to Restaurant August, continue to garner accolades, Besh has also focused on making a deeper impact on the Crescent City food scene with his non-profit, the John Besh Foundation, which offers culinary scholarships to minority applicants through initiatives such as Chefs Move.
“When I look at the top-tier chefs across the city, very few of them truly reflect the cultural diversity of New Orleans,” says Besh. “We all need to have a place at the table. We can’t allow education to become the stumbling point that keeps somebody with huge potential from realizing that potential.”
This year, Garden & Gun has partnered with the John Besh Foundation and Omni Hotels & Resorts to present Johnny + Friends, a pop-up dinner series that will show just how valuable—and delicious—new ideas in the kitchen can be. Each month, Besh will collaborate with a different roster of talent for a one-night-only menu, ranging from an April date with chef Michael Solomonov of Philadelphia’s Zahav to June’s Yes Ma’am: Women in Food dinner, featuring chefs Nina Compton, Cassidee Dabney, Kristen Kish, and more. “We’re not just transporting their restaurants,” Besh clarifies of his guests. “They’re working with our chefs and our teams to create something very special and very unique that evening.”