Donald Link to open restaurant at Four Seasons Hotel on New Orleans riverfront

A new restaurant taking shape within the Four Seasons hotel is designed around sweeping views of the Mississippi River and the cuisine of one of New Orleans’ most accomplished restaurateurs: Donald Link.

The hotel, set to open this spring at the foot of Canal Street, will be home to the next restaurant from the chef and his Link Restaurant Group. It has yet to be named, and details of the concept remain in development.

Link said it will be a fine dining restaurant, a notch more upscale than his bistro Herbsaint in the Central Business District and with a contemporary approach. It will be a large restaurant, with about 150 seats and 30 more at the bar. Link’s crew will also field menus for the separate pool and cabana terrace adjacent to the main restaurant.

While many facets of the project are still in the works, one of its defining characteristics is already set. From its perch on the hotel’s fifth floor, one side of the dining room will be all glass, framing a vista of the flowing river, passing ships and the contours that shaped the Crescent City. That helped seal the deal for Link when he was considering the project.

“Once I saw the view, that got me,” Link said.

This is the second chef partnership for the new Four Seasons. In the fall, the hotel announced plans to develop a restaurantwith chef Alon Shaya and Emily Shaya of Pomegranate Hospitality, which runs the modern Israeli restaurant Saba in Uptown.

The Shayas’ restaurant will be on the hotel’s first floor, and it is projected to open around the time of the hotel’s debut. Link’s restaurant is to join the hotel later, with a projected opening in the fall.

The hotel, officially the Four Seasons Hotel and Private Residences New Orleans, will mark a new chapter for the former World Trade Center high rise. The Four Seasons will have 341 guest rooms, 92 private residences and various events spaces, including in the distinctive copula topping the tower.

The landmark building’s redevelopment as luxury hotel and condominiums has been touted as a key for reviving this part New Orleans and the riverfront. That’s one reason Link decided to proceed with the project, even while the hospitality industry struggles with the economic toll of the coronavirus crisis.

“It was hard to wrap my head around another restaurant at first, but, really, I started going back to the post-Katrina days,” Link said.

Work in the Warehouse District to develop Cochon, Link’s second restaurant, was underway when Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005. Pushing ahead was nerve-racking with New Orleans just beginning its long recovery, the chef recalled. But it proved to be a pivotal decision for his company, and when Cochon opened the following spring it was another sign that the New Orleans dining scene was coming back.

He sees the Four Seasons project in a similar light now.

“It’s a way to make a commitment to New Orleans and keep the city moving forward,” he said.

The Link Restaurant Group is one of the most acclaimed operators in the New Orleans dining scene. Through the years it has built a national reputation, along with a trophy case of James Beard Awards. In addition to Herbsaint and Cochon, it runs Pêche Seafood Grill, Gianna, the market and eatery Cochon Butcher and the bakery café La Boulangerie.

The company has been approached numerous times to open restaurants in hotels around the country. Link said he has always passed on the offers.

When the Four Seasons possibility arose, Link was impressed by the quality of the hotel brand and by the potential to make a post-pandemic statement for New Orleans.

“I think the Four Seasons is a big deal for New Orleans. It will draw people,” he said. “I‘d rather have locals do [the restaurant[ than others from out of town coming in.”

Mali Carow, general manager of the new hotel, said building relationships with local chefs was an important part of the Four Seasons’ approach. “We wanted to find a chef with a story to tell, a local story to tell,” she said.

As the hotel and restaurant group began discussing possibilities, Carow said, it was clear Link’s team had the right cultural fit for the Four Seasons.

“We start with core and culture. We want people who share our values,” she said. “We’re forming a marriage between the Four Seasons and New Orleans, and it starts with our people.”

The Link and Shaya restaurants will complete the hotel’s dining program, along with its banquet facilities.

Shaya’s restaurant, which is also yet to be named, will be accessible from the ground level and will also handle food and beverage across the hotel’s lobby. In an earlier interview, Shaya described the new restaurant as a showcase of classic and contemporary influences running through Louisiana cuisine, with elements ranging from Cajun to Vietnamese.

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