TDining: Interview with Domenica Chef, John Besh

Posted by Brian Cleary on

Chef John Besh

They say that the Calabrese pizza at Domenica is so extraordinary that to get any better you’d have to travel to Tuscany. Perhaps it’s the Chappapeel farms spicy pork or the thin crust, charred ever so lightly over a pecan and oak wood fire. It could be, but more likely it’s the expertise of restauranteur, chef and TV personality (recently making an appearance on Today), John Besh (La Provence, August, Besh Steak). A native of southern Louisiana, Besh has created a name for himself as one of the thought leaders of New Orleans dining. Named one of the Ten Best New Chefs in America by Food & Wine (1999) and a recipient of the James Beard Foundation award for Best Chef in the Southeast (2006), Besh is paving a new path in New Orleans with his passion for healthy, locally sustained food. In each of his nine restaurants, Besh’s precise attention to details are evident from the architecture to the menu and even the server’s apparel. Alongside executive chef and partner, Alon Shaya, John Besh talked with us about the passion for precision and the unique approach to dressing the staff.


Domenica Staff in TD


TJ: John, from the rococo facade to the waitstaff’s uniforms, this is clearly a John Besh restaurant with an Italian flavor. John: Thank you. I hope so! We believe that the ambience is just as important as the food. If you look around you’ll see that we have paid every attention to detail including the Thomas Dean shirts that every front of house team member wears. TJ: John, we’ve all been to restaurants where the servers all wear black. Why Thomas Dean? John: The idea was to have servers dressed in different shirts- stylish, casual and fun- something that reminds me of Domenica and a Sunday afternoon in Italy. We chose Thomas Dean because we thought the patterns and styles matched what you would see walking around Milan on all of the "hip or trendy" people.  Chef Alon knew the brand well and it all came together. TJ: You’re well known for your decision to use locally sourced ingredients. You even raise your own pigs! Did you work with a local company to source the uniforms as well?

Domenica Pizza

John: We work with Rubenstein’s. They are good friends and iconic New Orleans. They truly understand food, fashion and design and that’s what we wanted to bring together at Domenica. TJ: The servers all look incredible and classic in their shirts. Each one is different but it all comes together. Can they choose the shirts that they like best? John: The over fifty front of house employees are given options that all work with the decor. They choose their own. They look great, don’t they? Funny story.  A guy came in to propose to his girlfriend and he had the same shirt on as his server and the girlfriend was teasing him the whole dinner.... but she said yes. The shirts are conversation starters and I really think they make our guests feel comfortable which is exactly what I love about them.  Some of the male employees will wear their shirts out and they love them. TJ: The female staff are in Thomas Dean as well? John: Yes! They wear the smaller sizes of the men’s shirts. Lately with the new shirts we have been getting, the female employees are getting aggressive about going regularly and looking for fun new colors and they compete amongst themselves with the patterns. TJ: Do the servers have a favorite item on the menu? John: They do. The Calabrese. Absolutely, the Calabrese. The next time you’re in New Orleans, visit John and the classically smart servers at Domenica  located at 123 Baronne in New Orleans504-648-6020 For more on Chef John Besh, check out his newest book “Cooking from the Heart: My Favorite Lessons Learned Along the Way.” To purchase Thomas Dean shirts, visit


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