Wining & Dining
Brown Bag Café
8/6/2018 12:15:53 PM
Brown Bag Cafe

Local culinary connoisseurs might not expect to find a Michelin Star-rated chef leading the kitchen staff of an unassuming eatery in Moss Bluff, La., but that is exactly where Chris Wise currently shares his gastronomic expertise. He and partner Bonnie Richard opened Brown Bag Café early May and have made a remarkable first impression. Together, they make a great team; he manages the kitchen and she works the front house, ensuring each customer leaves satisfied and eager to return.

Richard is a Moss Bluff native. She moved to Savannah, Georgia in 1993. Wise hails from Brooklyn, N.Y. The two met on Tybee Island in 2016. Last December, Richard wanted to return to Moss Bluff and Wise came with her. Their initial plan was to open a food truck and travel cross-country, but when they found the property on Hwy 378 available, they changed course. "So far, the idea has worked,” said Wise. From the first day they opened in early March, the venture has been a resounding success. "We have a great staff and things are good,” said Richard. "We just need a bigger building.”

Wise, a military veteran, has worked as a chef in cities all over the country, including places like The Greenbriar in West Virginia and Fontainebleu in Miami. Though his background lies in French cuisine, he brings his own unique style to the food he offers on their surprisingly extensive menu, which changes quarterly. "I’m a chef who believes in cooking seasonally,” says Wise. They debuted their summer menu last month, adding 20 new items to the mix. They’ve added lox and bagels to the breakfast menu, shrimp and grits to the dinner menu, and strawberry rhubarb pie to the homemade desserts line-up. Popular sandwiches include the Miami Cubano, the B&O Railroad Club, and a unique sandwich called the Elvis (peanut butter, bacon, and honey-caramelized bananas.)

When Wise first began cooking professionally, he worked in high-end French restaurants in New York, but over the years, he’s evolved and has learned most every style of cooking possible. "I try to bring competing elements into everything,” he says.

For example, Wise takes a basic pastrami on rye and adds pickled green tomatoes and applewood bacon for a New York/Southern fusion sandwich – a new item on their summer menu. "I blend a lot of things together that people may recognize but I put my own twist on it. For example, most people know what a wedge salad is, but I add pickled okra, pickled green tomatoes, pickled green beans and pickled habaneros, topped with a nice parmesan peppercorn dressing. I love beets and put a roasted beet salad with mandarin orange, gorgonzola cheese, and red onion on the menu.”

Wise makes even the simplest dish unique and special. In his Big Sam Breakfast (boneless pork chop, two eggs, hash browns) he marinates the pork loin for 48 hours in a peach basil marinade. Steaks might be marinated in a sun-dried tomato basil marinade. For brunch, in addition to eggs benedict, he creates smoked salmon benedict, and asparagus and crab benedict. He also caters to people on special diets. A popular breakfast item is the Keto Bowl (your choice of two meats, one cheese, roasted curried veggies, and scrambled eggs with a dash of smoked Hungarian paprika on top.)

Richard and Wise say they feel greatly blessed and they strive to give back to the community in various ways. They have an on-going food drive and donate to a different food pantry each week. Patrons who contribute a non-perishable food item receive 10% off their order. Veterans, first responders, Calcasieu Parish school teachers (including those retired) and senior citizens also get a 10% discount. Through their faith-based restaurant, Wise and Richard sell the wares of other area business owners, for example cookies and candles. "What good is making money if you don’t make everything around you a little bit better,” says Wise.
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