It sounds like the vacation is over for former Top Chef cheftestant Isaac Toups. The New Orelans-based chef took a break from his normally hectic schedule to cruise around the Caribbean for a few days as the star of Isaac Takes On. True, it wasn't a real vacation — he had to go head-to-head with some stellar chefs in competitions involving sushi, tableside desserts, and bartending flair — and now it's back to the grind for the Top Chef Season 13 Fan Favorite.
"The neighborhood is really welcoming to us," Isaac said in an interview with The Feast. "The city was already used to my kind of extravagant, no-holds-barred, fist-to-face type of cooking, so everybody was already into the cooking, [I] already had my name established, so it was a little easier than opening up the first restaurant."
While both restaurants serve up Isaac's bold, meat-centric cuisine, there are some key differences. And Isaac wasn't afraid to get a little Freudian on us. "Toups' Meatery the original restaurant is really kind of like my id, it's very guttural, it's very hedonistic, large formats, it's a small restaurant. It's very intimate, you know, you can get to know your neighbor real well," Isaac explained. "Whereas South has maybe just a touch of a lighter hand, and it expands kind of all of the South, where Meatery is very much contemporary cajun or modern cajun."
At Toups' Meatery, you'll find hearty dishes like confit chicken thighs served with ham-braised greens and double-cut pork chop with dirty rice. The Toups South menu features slightly lighter fare, such as grilled poussin with pecan dumplings and a gulf tuna with braised eggplant.
"And so at South we kind of take a a little bit of everything from East Texas barbecue to low country, where we take crab fat and turn that into crab fat butter and we serve that with buttermilk biscuits from a starter that's 100 years old from south Louisiana. So we do some extravagant, cool things," he explained.
No matter where you end up dining, the James Beard-nominated chef — who honed his skills working under Emeril Lagasse for a decade — emphasizes his philosophy of "foie gras in your flip flops."
"I want you to come in and get some killer food, and I don't care what you wear," he stressed. "It's not going to be stuffy and fussy, it's going to be casual, easygoing. Get a drink, have five, I don't care. Show up, have a good time, leave happy and full."
As if running two busy restaurants weren't enough, Isaac is also working on his first cookbook, which is set to come out around Father's Day 2018. "It's obviously going to be a very meat-focused book, that's just what I am, that's what I do," he said. "I'm really proud of that."
The book won't just be focused on recipes; it will reflect Isaac's heritage and background, too. "It's going to be kind of a story of how the cajuns came about, and how I came about as far as my cooking mentality. Stories, lies, anecdotes, etc, etc," he said
Lies? If his lies are half as entertaining as his truths, we're in for a real treat.
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