Thursday, August 16, 2012

Fine dining is a family affair in Shreveport

In the third part of the “Couples in the Kitchen” article, which appeared in the summer edition of the Louisiana Restaurant Association’s A La Carte magazine, you’ll be introduced to Ernest and Tina Palmisano. While Ernest has been operating the restaurant for decades, Tina joined the business a few years ago, when the two were married.

With a large percentage of Louisiana restaurants being family owned and operated, the story of couples working together in the business had us thinking, “How do they balance their personal and professional lives?”  We’ve found they are sometimes one in the same, as running a business together is extremely personal. Meet Ernest and Tina of Ernest’s Orleans in Shreveport.   
Tina and Ernest Palmisano run Ernest's Orleans Restaurant
in Shreveport. They were featured in the LRA summer
edition of A La Carte magazine in the article, "Couples
in the Kitchen: Family at the core of many
Louisiana restaurants."
On the top of the hill on Spring Street in Shreveport sits Ernest’s Orleans Restaurant, where diners can nosh on prime steaks, fresh seafood and Italian cuisine in an intimate atmosphere. For years, the restaurant has been part of the fabric of Shreveport’s dining history and from the veranda, one can enjoy the scenic view of downtown.

Ernest Jr. has spent most of his life in the restaurant business. His father, Ernest Sr., owned Ernest’s Supper Club on the riverfront, which opened in the 1940s and fed many until it closed with Ernest Sr.’s passing in 1983. During Ernest Jr.’s career, he’s seen things change and knows that they will continue to do so.
“Back in the day, customers would come in to the restaurant and spend the whole evening with us, soaking up the atmosphere and enjoy a leisurely meal, wine and conversation,” he said. “These days, younger diners are in such a rush and they want to be in and out quickly, because they have so many other things going on.”

At 51 years old, Ernest is hardly a cynic but has noticed changes not only in dining habits, but also with technology, staffing and how willing people are to stick with you, particularly during the rough spots.

Ernest married his wife Tina in 2007 and she has brought a new energy to their restaurant. Her passion and dedication to attracting new patrons, younger ones to replace the older ones that have passed on, is evident in her approach to the business.

Born in Lafayette surrounded by family members who spoke broken Cajun French, Tina absorbed all she could about the ways of cooking Cajun cuisine. At 24, she attended Louisiana Vocational’s culinary program and has trained at the Culinary Institute of America. Her culinary spark was rekindled and she received a master certification in Foodservice Management from Cornell University and completed her first chef level with the American Culinary Federation.  Her diverse skills include being a master florist and holding an event planner certification.

Tina attributes her long-standing passion to many fine mentors along the way. Her husband is one of those mentors, sharing his love of the business and Italian cuisine with her.
“He was the missing piece to my puzzle. I met him sitting at the bar at the restaurant, eating veggies and his marinated mushrooms,” said Tina Marie. “We fell in love at the restaurant, got married at the restaurant and the restaurant is something that we both love.”

According to Ernest, they make a great team.

“I throw the ball and sometimes she catches it and vice versa,” he said. “We do what it takes to get the job done and it’s hard, but we have a common goal which is to take care of our guests the best we can.”

Tina also has passion for working with young people and volunteers with the Shreveport Job Corps. She routinely brings in youth and teaches the ways of the kitchen, techniques, culinary styles and even management practices. The restaurant even has a ProStart® graduate on staff and she views that as a huge asset.

“Gunter works the lunch shift and he really shares what he’s learned in his ProStart classes with other members of the team, often reciting ServSafe information, times and temperatures,” she said. “ProStart students make excellent employees and having him with us is a tremendous benefit to our business.”

Ernest attributes his success and longevity in the business to his being a member of the Louisiana Restaurant Association. A recipient of the LRA’s Restaurateur of the Year in 1994 really boosted his profile and put him and Shreveport on the map.

“I just can’t understand why any restaurant owner wouldn’t be a member of the LRA. I’ve gotten so much from my membership, especially having other restaurant business owners to call upon when I have a challenge or calling on me if they have a problem.”

There are many risks and benefits to owning a restaurant but the trick is to balance them to maximize the rewards of the busy lifestyle.

“Sure you can make a good living in the restaurant business, but it’s a lot of hard work and can take its toll on you mentally and physically,” he shared. “But at the close of business, to know that I’ve made people happy serving them food that I love to cook is just priceless.”

1 comment:

  1. Thank you so much for the wonderful story about us in shreveport!....We are so supporters and believers of the Louisiana Restaurant Association. We look forward to growing into the new inspirations of the LRA all together.