Chef Spotlight: Alex Harrell

October 30, 2015

Some say there’s a science to gourmet cooking.

New Orleans-based chef Alex Harrell gives new meaning to the phrase, as a scientist who took on gourmet cooking for a living. “I’ve been at this for many years, but surprisingly my degree does play a role in what I do. How I source what I use, how those ingredients are produced or raised. We have to be really careful in how we disrupt biological systems.”

After nearly two decades of experience in some of the most noteworthy kitchens in New Orleans, Chef Harrell puts his biology degree and years of hard work to the test in his own French Quarter eatery, Angeline. The response to Harrell’s new southern cooking showcase has been even greater than he imagined.

“When I finally opened my own restaurant I wanted to be true to the culture that has taught me so much. But I also wanted it to have a sense of place on it’s own, not be focused so specifically on south Louisiana culture but the south more broadly.”

Harrell has achieved the marriage of a New Orleans’ culinary education meets southern Alabama upbringing with a dish like Gulf shrimp and confit pork belly with sassafras glaze, butternut squash puree, mustard greens as well as his Louisiana blue crab and linguini with mint, serrano, crab butter, and Florida bottarga.

“A few years ago I started really exploring the roots of this food, the stuff I grew up on, the southern legacy of cooking. I really wanted to bring that to life with what I had been doing for years at other places and make it the best experience a guest could have.” Thus, Angeline opened its doors.

Chef will be grilling oysters for his contribution to the Cook-Off, leaving the meat in the half shell and adding a layer of cornmeal, herb butter, and some New Orleans’ own, anise-flavored liquor Herbsaint. “The result is something smoky and full of flavor, “ said Harrell.

With another nod to his textbook degree, celebrating oysters is as appealing to Harrell’s scientific mind as it is his palate. “Technology has allowed us to grow and farm oysters in a way that doesn’t hurt the environment,” he said. “Our global footprint as chefs is important to me; the story of the oyster is one of those great successes. It’s sustainable and that’s the beauty of it.”