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Networking: Tenney Flynn
Chef/owner, GW Fins New Orleans
By James Wright
July 01, 2010
QUOTE: When people come to New Orleans they're coming to have a good time. And they're probably coming from places where the food isn't as good.
New Orleans, with its seafood-loving populace, sunk its hooks into Tenney Flynn almost two decades ago. The Atlanta-area native is a former corporate chef for Ruth's Chris Steakhouse who has opened restaurants all over the country. But those days are long since passed, he says, and now the 220-seat GW Fins and its extensive seafood menu is his sole focus. One restaurant, one menu - life is good.
Flynn is like most people in New Orleans these days: One eye on the situation out in the Gulf of Mexico (see Top Story, p. 18) but attending to business as usual.
JW: How's the mood in the city and in your restaurant?
TF: In the city it runs the gamut from gloom and doom to unnatural optimism. Nobody really knows right now. The amount of media has decreased dramatically; I guess there's no real photo ops on shore. Up until this morning, the mass of oil was basically staying put. They're tracking the oil's progress to landfall like winds and tides but the spill was not acting like winds and tides. In the restaurant, it's pretty much as normal. It's a very busy time of year for us, with convention season and graduations, the French Quarter Fest. When people come to New Orleans they're coming to have a good time. And they're probably coming from places where the food isn't as good.
What was your reaction to the news?
The story was really slow to gain traction. I don't think they wanted to blow it up right away. We were going, 'Well, it's 40 miles offshore, I'm sure they'll get it stopped.' But it's been such a growing thing. My initial reaction was it's a shame: We just won the Super Bowl, we have a new mayor and chief of police and a new show on HBO ("Treme") showing how great our city is. The Treme neighborhood is probably the oldest black neighborhood in the United States, a birthplace of jazz. The show features local musicians and the community and how it reacted to [Hurricane Katrina]. It's an incredibly unique and diverse culture here.
What have your seafood purveyors told you about future supplies, in the short and long term?
I know that if I want red snapper right now it's coming from Mexico or parts of Florida. I sort of take it like, if I talk to six or eight people and there's a common thread … but some of these guys are so crooked they'll have to be screwed into the ground when they die.
Are you seeing evidence of seafood prices rising?
Black drum is the workhorse fish here. I bought some. We're doing a benefit Sunday as a fundraiser, and I paid $9 for drum fillets. Typically it's $6 a pound. Sheepshead is nonexistent now. But most of what's out there I don't want; 90 percent of it. It's a question of handling, temperature and integrity - time out of the water. What's great about living here is I'm two hours from one of the best tuna docks in Dulac. I get fish in rigor sometimes. I'm afraid we'll have to source from the western gulf, a euphemism for Mexico around here.
How much of your menu is seafood, and how much of that is local?
Ninety percent. We're kinda the opposite of a steakhouse. We have a steak for those poor people who say they don't like fish. Saying you don't like seafood is like saying you don't like sex - you're just not having the right kind! About 70 percent of the seafood is local. I get scallops, lobsters, skate, monkfish from New England, some Hawaiian stuff, some from South American. There's so much great product close by it was easy to build a menu out of that.