Chefs & Staff / Chef John Folse

Chef John Folse

Chef John Folse, born in St. James Parish in 1946, learned early that the secrets of Cajun cooking lay in the unique ingredients of Louisiana’s swamp floor pantry. Folse seasoned these raw ingredients with his passion for Louisiana culture and cuisine, and from his cast iron pots emerged Chef John Folse & Company.

When Folse opened Lafitte’s Landing Restaurant in 1978 in Donaldsonville, Louisiana, he set out to market his restaurant by taking “a taste of Louisiana” worldwide. He introduced Louisiana’s indigenous cuisine to Japan in 1985, Beijing in 1986 and Hong Kong and Paris in 1987. In 1988, Folse made international headlines with the opening of “Lafitte’s Landing East” in Moscow during the Presidential Summit between Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev. In 1989, Folse was the first non-Italian chef to create the Vatican State Dinner in Rome. Promotional restaurants also included London in 1991 and 1993, Bogota in 1991, Taipei in 1992 and 1994 and Seoul in 1994. In 1988, the Sales and Marketing Executives of Greater Baton Rouge named Folse “Marketer of the Year” and the Louisiana Legislature gave him the title of “Louisiana’s Culinary Ambassador to the World.”

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The Chef John Folse Culinary Institute at Nicholls State University in Thibodaux, Louisiana, opened in October 1994 and is dedicated to the preservation of Louisiana’s rich culinary and cultural heritage. In March 2013 ground breaking ceremonies were held at NSU on the site of the new culinary arts building, which is projected to open in September 2014.  In August 1996, Folse began broadcasting his radio cooking talk show, “Stirrin’ It Up.” In 2001, “Stirrin’ It Up” expanded to a television cooking segment during the 5 p.m. newscast on WAFB-TV Channel 9 in Baton Rouge.

Exceptional Endings, the pastry division of Chef John Folse & Company, was launched in 1996 to create specialty desserts, pastries and savories. In October 1998, a fire destroyed the 200-year-old Viala Plantation, which housed Lafitte’s Landing Restaurant, and in May 1999 Folse opened his former Donaldsonville home as Lafitte’s Landing Restaurant at Bittersweet Plantation, offering fine dining and bed and breakfast accommodations. In the year 2000, Folse incorporated Digi-Tek Productions, a full service digital recording studio.

In 2010, Folse announced his business partnership with Chef Rick Tramonto and the formation of the new restaurant development company Home on the Range: Folse Tramonto Restaurant Development, LLC. The partners will launched their first joint restaurant, Restaurant R’evolution, at the Royal Sonesta Hotel New Orleans in the city’s renowned French Quarter in June 2012. Restaurant R’evolution will offers modern, imaginative reinterpretations of classic Cajun and Creole cuisine.  In autumn 2014 Fold and Tramonto will open their second joint venture, Seafood R’evolution, in Ridgeland, MS, a bedroom community of the metro Jackson area.

Folse has received numerous national and international accolades over the course of his 30-plus year career. In 1990, the American Culinary Federation named Folse the “National Chef of the Year,” and in 1999, the Research Chefs Association (RCA) named Chef John Folse & Company “Pioneers in Culinology” due to the efforts of Folse’s culinary research team. He is the only chef ever to serve as chairman or president of the American Culinary Federation (1994), DiRoNA (2000-2001), and the Research Chefs Association (2005-2007). In 2006, Folse was inducted into the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation’s College of Diplomates. In October 2008, Folse was awarded the Louisiana Governor’s Cultural Economic Development Arts Award. He holds honorary Doctorates of Culinary Arts from Johnson & Wales University in Providence, RI, and Baltimore International Culinary College.

Thirty years of culinary excellence later, Folse is still adding ingredients to the corporate gumbo he calls Chef John Folse & Company, which is as diverse as the Louisiana landscape, and he would not want it any other way.

AWARDS AND ACCOLADES

Chef John Folse

  • Louisiana Restaurant Association, “Louisiana Restaurateur of the Year,” 1987
  • American Culinary Federation (ACF), “National Chef of the Year,”1990
  • Johnson & Wales University, Honorary Doctorate of Culinary Arts, 1992
  • American Culinary Federation, National President, 1994
  • Baltimore International Culinary College, Honorary Doctorate of Culinary Arts, 1995
  • Nation’s Restaurant News, “Profiles of Power,” 1995
  • Food Arts magazine “Silver Spoon Award,” 1998
  • American Culinary Federation (ACF), Louisiana Chef’s Hall of Fame, 1999
  • DiRōNA, Chairman, 2000 – 2001
  • RCA, Board of Directors, 2001
  • RCA, President, 2005‐2007
  • ACF, Antonin Carême Medal, 2000
  • National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation, College of Diplomates, 2006
  • Bocuse d’Or World Cuisine Contest, American Judge, 2007
  • Louisiana Governor’s Cultural Economic Development Arts Award, 2008
  • Southern Foodways Alliance, Lifetime Achievement Award, 2008
  • Baton Rouge Epicurean Society, Grace “Mama” Marino Lifetime Achievement Award, 2011
  • Nicholls State University, Honorary Doctorate of Commerce, 2011
  • Louisiana Seafood Promotion & Marketing Board, Marketing Specialist 2008, Chairman 2013
  • Sister Dulce Foundation Board, current
  • BP’s Spirit of the Gulf campaign at the London Olympics, Louisiana representative, August 2013
  • Research Chefs Association Lifetime Achievement Award 2013
  • St. Joseph’s Cathedral Community Award, March 2013
  • Louisiana Cultural Ambassador, 2019
  • Recipient Ella Brennan Lifetime Achievement in Hospitality Award, January 2020

Chef John Folse & Company

  • TGI Friday’s, Procurement Product Development Award (Chef John Folse & Company), 1998
  • Research Chefs Association (RCA), “Pioneers in Culinology” (Chef John Folse & Company), 1999
  • TGI Friday’s, “Food Vendor of the Year,” 2011

Lafitte’s Landing

  • Nation’s Restaurant News, “Fine Dining Hall of Fame,” (Lafitte’s Landing), 1989
  • DiRōNA, Award of Excellence (Lafitte’s Landing), 1996

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Chef Rick Tramonto

Chef Rick Tramonto

For eleven years, Restaurant R’evolution Executive Chef Rick Tramonto was executive chef and founding partner at Chicago’s world-renowned four-star fine-dining restaurant Tru, in partnership with restaurateur Rich Melman, chairman of Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises, and Pastry Chef Gale Gand. Tramonto is also culinary director of Tramonto Cuisine, Inc., which developed Tramonto’s Steak & Seafood and Osteria di Tramonto.

A Rochester, NY, native, Tramonto grew up in a traditional blue-collar Italian family. In 1977, due to a family crisis and his struggles in school, Tramonto dropped out of high school and entered the workforce to help support his family. His first full-time job was with Wendy’s Old Fashioned Hamburgers. After two years he left to become grill/sauté cook at the Scotch ‘N Sirloin, followed by a stint at the Strathallen Hotel, where he had his first experience with classical French technique, under the tutelage of Chef Greg Broman. Young and ambitious, Tramonto moved to New York in the early 1980s, working at the legendary Tavern on the Green. From there, he joined Chef Alfred Portale as a line cook at Gotham Bar & Grill and was part of the brigade awarded three stars by the New York Times. He also worked under Chef Gerard Pangaud at Aurora. In the late 1980s, Tramonto was brought to Chicago by Richard Melman to work at his popular restaurants Avanzare and Scoozi!, as well as several other Lettuce Entertain You establishments. After a stint at Charlie Trotter’s, Tramonto received a call from London-based restaurateur Bob Payton, whose company operated American-concept restaurants throughout the U.K. and Europe. Payton asked Tramonto to transform the cuisine at his award-winning country-house hotel Stapleford Park in Leicestershire. Tramonto accepted the opportunity to live and work in England, France, and Spain, and Stapleford Park was awarded the Michelin Guide’s coveted Red “M.” Tramonto then worked with Payton to reopen the famous Criterion Brasserie in Picadilly Circus, London, and apprenticed with some of the world’s greatest chefs, including Pierre Gagnaire, Anton Mosimann, Michel Guerard, Raymond Blanc and Alain Chapel.

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Returning to Chicago in the early 1990s, Tramonto, along with culinary partner Gale Gand and Henry Adaniya, opened the nationally acclaimed fine dining restaurant Trio in Evanston, Illinois. The restaurant was an immediate triumph, earning Tramonto four-star ratings from the Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, and Chicago magazine, as well as Food & Wine’s Best New Chef. Tramonto and Gand went on to launch Brasserie T, publish their first cookbooks and appear on Food Network. The two reunited with Rich Melman and Lettuce Entertain You in 2000 to open the award-winning Chicago landmark restaurant Tru, again attaining a trio of four-star reviews, as well as a Michelin Guide Red “M” and a four-star Mobil rating. Tramonto received the James Beard Best Chef Midwest award in 2002. In 2005, he opened Osteria di Tramonto, Tramonto’s Steak & Seafood and RT Sushi Bar & Lounge in the Westin Hotel in Wheeling, Illinois.

In 2010, Tramonto announced his business partnership with Louisiana native Chef John Folse and the formation of the new restaurant development company Home on the Range: Folse Tramonto Restaurant Development, LLC. The partners will launched their first joint restaurant, Restaurant R’evolution, at the Royal Sonesta Hotel New Orleans in the city’s renowned French Quarter in June 2012. Restaurant R’evolution will offers modern, imaginative reinterpretations of classic Cajun and Creole cuisine. Their second project together is Seafood R’evolution, in Ridgeland Mississippi which opened in 2014.

Tramonto is an accomplished author with eight titles to his credit: His memoir, Scars of a Chef, was published in March 2011. His cookbooks include: Steak with FriendsOsteria; Fantastico!; Tru; Amuse-Bouche; Butter Sugar Flour Eggs (nominated for the 2000 James Beard Award for Best Cookbook in the Baking and Desserts category); American Brasserie(finalist for the Julia Child Cookbook Award).

Because of his respect he has earned in the culinary world, Tramonto has won numerous awards including: James Beard Award – Best Chef Midwest; James Beard Award – Best Service (Tru); Wine Spectator Grand Award (Tru); Best Chef in Food & Wine Magazine (Trio); Four Star reviews in Chicago Tribune; Four Star reviews in Chicago Magazine; Best New Restaurant in New Orleans Magazine (Restaurant R’evolution).

Tramonto has a long history of television work as well, appearing on “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” “Today,” “CBS This Morning,” “Simply Ming,” and “Iron Chef America.” He was a judge on Bravo’s hit reality show “Top Chef” and a contestant on Season 2 of “Top Chef Masters.”  Tramonto has been featured in publications including USA Today, The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and People magazine as well as Bon Appétit, Wine Spectator, and Conde Nast Traveler.

Tramonto is a regular at food and wine events nationwide, including Pebble Beach Food & Wine, the Food Network South Beach Wine & Food Festival, and the Aspen Food & Wine Classic. He is active in his church and supports a number of charities, including Feed the Children and Angel Tree. Tramonto splits his time between Louisiana and Chicago, where his wife and three sons reside.

AWARDS AND ACCOLADES

Chef Rick Tramonto

  • Chef John Folse Culinary Institute Distinguished Visiting Chef Award, 2004
  • Nation’s Restaurant News Annual Fine Dining Hall of Fame Award, 2004
  • Restaurants & Institutions magazine IVY Award, 2003
  • Relais & Chateaux Relais‐Gourmand
  • James Beard Awards Win for Amex Best Chef, Midwest Category, 2002
  • James Beard Awards Nomination for Amex Best Chef, Midwest Category, 2001
  • James Beard Awards Nomination for Best Chefs in the Midwest, 1997
  • Robert Mondavi Award for Culinary Excellence; Rising Star Chefs Award, 1994
  • Food & Wine Magazine Top 10 Best New Chefs, 1994
  • Michelin Red ʺM,ʺ 1991

TRU

  • Outstanding Service Award from The James Beard Foundation, 2007
  • Four‐star Mobil
  • Five‐diamond AAA
  • DiRōNA (Distinguished Restaurants of North America) Award, 2004
  • Outstanding Service Award nomination from The James Beard Foundation, 2004
  • Wine Spectator magazine’s Grand Award for Outstanding Restaurant Wine Lists, 2004
  • Wine Spectator magazine’s ‘Best Of’ Award 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003
  • Relais & Chateaux Relais‐Gourmand
  • American Academy of Hospitality Sciences Award, 2002
  • Best New Restaurant nomination from The James Beard Foundation, 2000
  • Four‐star reviews from Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun‐Times and Chicago magazine
  • Named the most popular Chicago restaurant by Zagat Survey

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Staff

JANA BILLIOT

CHEF DE CUISINE

Chef de Cuisine Jana Billiot oversees menu execution and kitchen operations, while developing seasonal offerings and specialty dishes. And her Hogs Head Terrine dish recently won the 2017 New Orleans Wine & Food Experience Fleur de Lis Silver Culinary Award for the Meat/Poultry category. Previously, Billiot served as Restaurant R’evolution’s executive sous chef.

Billiot joined Restaurant R’evolution during its conceptual stage, even before it opened its doors in 2012, closely assisting in menu development alongside managing partners and executive chefs Folse and Rick Tramonto. Restaurant R’evolution, which evolves the food of the “seven nations” that formed Louisiana’s culture and cuisine, has quickly risen to prominence throughout the fine-dining scene of the greater New Orleans area, the United States and across the globe.

Billiot, a Louisiana native of Johnson Bayou in Cameron Parish, is a 2007 graduate of the Chef John Folse Culinary Institute (CJFCI) at Nicholls State University. Currently, CJFCI is the only post-secondary institution in Louisiana – and, in fact, one of the only ones in the country – offering four-year Bachelor of Science and two-year associate of science degrees in culinary arts. While studying at CJFCI, she trained at the Institut Paul Bocuse, Hôtellerie Restauration & Arts Culinaires in 2005 in Lyon, France. Following graduation, Billiot honed her culinary skills at Tramonto’s TRU Restaurant in Chicago, before joining the Restaurant R’evolution team in 2010.


Luis Ochoa

Luis Ochoa

General Manager

Ochoa provides more than a decade of experience within a fine dining environment, including expertise in guest relations and development, team management, development of operation procedures and managing sales and inventory. He joined the restaurant team in 2015 as the assistant general manager, and he previously served as restaurant manager to other New Orleans staples including Emeril’s New Orleans, NOLA Restaurant and Atchafalaya.

“Restaurant R’evolution brings the best of Louisiana cuisine and Southern hospitality to every guest who walks through our doors,” said Ochoa. “It’s an honor to lead this team, and I’m excited to have a part in our legacy right here in the French Quarter.”


Kerri Creedon

Assistant General Manager

Creedon brings more than 15 years of hospitality and food and beverage expertise to Restaurant R’evolution. As assistant general manager, she offers her tenured experience and guidance in coordinating, directing and planning daily business operations, as well as greeting guests and answering their questions, while also motivating team members achieve the highest standards of service.

“Joining Restaurant R’evolution has been a welcomed evolution in my career, and I’m thrilled to be part of such a wonderful legacy within New Orleans cuisine,” says Creedon. “I look forward to working closely with Luis to continue ensuring our guests receive an unforgettable experience each time they visit.”


Steven Russet

Wine Director

Prior to joining R’evolution, Russett’s professional background, expertise and accolades earned in the restaurant and hospitality industries include work in premier venues throughout greater New Orleans. Russett has served as assistant sommelier and sommelier at well-known establishments, including Emeril’s, Emeril’s Delmonico and Nola. His career experience also includes sales and management positions at Republic National Distribution Company and Lirette Selections.

Russett has been awarded on numerous occasions for his work in the wine industry, including being named the 2008 Grand Award Winner by Wine Spectator, as well as being recognized as 2011 Brand Champion for Graffigna Sales by Pernod Ricard USA. He also previously received a nomination for the James Beard Foundation’s Excellence in Wine Service Award. Beyond his time in the wine and restaurant industries, Russett is also a member of the United States Marine Corps.

“I’m proud to join the Restaurant R’evolution team,” said Russett. “The legacies of Chefs Folse and Tramonto are inspiring, along with the Cajun and Creole cuisine they create. I can’t wait to share my knowledge and love of wine with our guests.”


Blake Abene

Blake Abene

Executive Pastry Chef

A native of Hammond, Louisiana, Abene is a graduate of The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York. Abene’s interest in modern fine dining desserts began at Jean Georges, where he trained under Executive Pastry Chef Johnny Iuzzini. Abene went on to work at Corton, initially serving as chef de partie and then eventually working his way up to the position of executive pastry chef. After returning to Louisiana in 2013, he worked at the former Stella! before joining Rebel Restaurant Group as executive pastry chef for its Root and Square Root locations.

“It’s an honor to become part of the legacies of Chefs Folse and Tramonto, taking beloved traditional Louisiana desserts and putting a modern spin on them.”

Over the years, Abene has garnered honors from numerous organizations, including the American Culinary Federation of New Orleans, which named him one of its “Best Chefs of Louisiana” in 2016. In addition, StarChefs.com named him a “rising star” pastry chef for its 2016 New Orleans class.


Meredith Sabol

Restaurant Manager & Private Events Manager

Sabol has nearly 15 years of experience in food and beverage service, having worked virtually every job available in the restaurant and hospitality industries. As Restaurant R’evolution’s private events manager, she oversees the elements of planning, scheduling and coordinating all related special occasions and private events on behalf of the venue and its team.

“Restaurant R’evolution continues to raise the bar in fine dining with dynamic talent, both in the kitchen and front of house,” says Sabol. “This is an exciting time in the culinary industry and in the city of New Orleans, and I am proud to be part of this team and this renowned fine dining restaurant.”