Rick Blount is clearly pleased to be where he is today. We met the CEO and fifth generation proprietor of Antoine’s at one of their private dining rooms yesterday where they were marking the momentous occasion of having been open since 1840. That’s quite an accomplishment in a city that’s seen so many legendary businesses and restaurants come and go amid flood and recession. Rick enjoyed sharing his story with the crowd, and later with me as we talked about the challenges and the big staff in the busy restaurant.
Waiters at Antoine’s often come from the same families. A proud tradition of nepotism is common, with a father, then a son, a nephew and then a family friend. One of our waiters in crisp tuxedos and bowtie said he ‘had only been there 15 years.” Customers often call up and make reservations and request their favorite servers, who can earn princely sums for this very respected professional waiter career.
Blount started getting in the the way in the kitchen back in 1973, popping in as an owner’s kid, and then he left the family business to get involved with businesses like yacht brokering and real estate for a few decades. But then his grandfather passed on. And the family looked at him in 2005 and said, ‘well if you know so much why don’t YOU run it?” So that’s how he came back with his wife to run this venerable institution.
Rick said that there are still huge problems underneath the French Quarter, and though Katrina was the event that caused the most upheaval, the infrastructure down below is barely able to function with so many people visiting and living here. And he said that so many people he’s met after 2005 reacted with outright dismay that the government was going to have to pay for much of the clean-up. “They send billions to California and to countries around the world, but people really got mad about having to help out New Orleans, as if we didn’t deserve it.”