John Besh is a chef and a native son dedicated to the culinary riches of southern Louisiana. In his restaurants, entrepreneurial pursuits, and public activities, he preserves and promotes ingredients, techniques, and heritage one dish at a time.
Besh’s talent and drive have earned him kudos throughout his career: Food & Wine named him one of the “Top 10 Best New Chefs in America.” He won the coveted James Beard Foundation Award for Best Chef - Southeast in 2006 and was inducted into the Foundation’s “Who’s Who” in 2014. His twelve acclaimed restaurants (August, Besh Steak, Lüke, Lüke San Antonio, La Provence, Domenica, Pizza Domenica, Borgne, Johnny Sánchez New Orleans, Johnny Sánchez Baltimore, Shaya and Willa Jean) each celebrate the bounty and traditions of the region. His flagship restaurant, August, is a Gayot Top 40 Restaurant and a Wine Enthusiast Top 100 Restaurant, in addition to being nominated in 2012 and 2013 for the James Beard "Outstanding Restaurant” award and in 2014 for “Outstanding Service” award. In January 2016, the Besh Restaurant Group acquired a space in New Orleans to house a new private events venue, dubbed Pigeon & Prince. Executive Chef Erick Loos of La Provence is helming the culinary development for the space.
Besh is the author of four cookbooks: My New Orleans (October 2009) My Family Table (November 2011), Cooking from the Heart (November 2013) and most recently Besh Big Easy (September 2015). He hosts two national public television cooking shows based on his books, “Chef John Besh’s New Orleans,” which began airing in 2011, and “Chef John Besh’s Family Table,” which debuted in April 2013. He hosted “Hungry Investors” on the Spike Network, in which he traveled around the country with Chef Tiffany Derry and Jon Taffer to assist “diamond in the rough” failing restaurants to meet their potential.
The John Besh Foundation, founded in 2011, works to protect and preserve the culinary heritage and foodways of New Orleans via initiatives such as the Chefs Move! culinary school scholarship and “Milk Money” microloans for local farmers.
He and his wife, Jenifer, live with their four sons in southern Louisiana.
Octavio Mantilla was born in Nicaragua and moved to New Orleans as a child. At sixteen, he got his first job in a restaurant and has worked his way through all the managerial levels. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Tulane University and an MBA from the University of New Orleans. Octavio helped open Harrah’s Casino & Hotel in New Orleans and then worked in St. Louis as Harrah’s Director of Food Operations. He has opened numerous fine dining restaurants for Harrah’s nationwide.
Octavio returned to New Orleans to be reunited with his old friend Chef John Besh at The Besh Steakhouse at Harrah’s. Octavio joined John as a partner in The Besh Restaurant Group, combining his vast experience in restaurant operations with a passion for customer service. Since then, the Besh Restaurant Group has expanded to include restaurants such as August, Borgne, La Provence, Domenica, Lüke, Lüke San Antonio, Pizza Domenica, Johnny Sánchez Baltimore, Johnny Sánchez New Orleans, Shaya, Willa Jean, and a private event venue, Pigeon & Prince.
In March 2016, the Besh Restaurant Group announced the creation of Our House Hospitality, a hotel food and beverage operations management division. Our House Hospitality is responsible for the revitalization of the historic Pontchartrain Hotel which houses four food & beverage outlets including Silver Whistle Cafe, Hot Tin, Bayou Bar, and The Caribbean Room. OHH is partnering with Commune Hotels & Resorts to develop three culinary concepts within Thompson Nashville, which is slated to open in Fall 2016.
Chef John Russ was born and raised in New Orleans and grew up with a deep love and appreciation for food. He began his culinary career first at The Ritz-Carlton then Restaurant August where he began to form the relationship with John Besh and his company that would bring him to San Antonio. During his time at August, he learned the importance of forming relationships with farmers and fisherman, which would later be reinforced by his time working on farms in Alabama, New Hampshire, New York and Maryland. Chef Russ spent years in Europe opening hotels, training staff, setting kitchens up for success all while gaining an appreciation of the European kitchen, which focuses on the education and evolution of the staff. After time in New Hampshire, New York and Maryland, spent honing his skills and revitalizing restaurant kitchens, Chef Russ returned to the Besh Restaurant Group as Chef de Cuisine on the invitation of Chef Besh. He now leads the kitchen at Luke San Antonio as Executive Chef.
Catherine “Cathy” Bartlett is the most senior staff member at Lüke and recently appointed General Manager. Cathy began her journey working behind the bar at Lüke, where she quickly learned the ropes and impressed her team. In just few short years, Cathy was quickly promoted due to her diligent work ethic, creativity, and leadership. As a San Antonio native, her knowledge of the culture and strong partnership with Chef John Russ, is transposed into every aspect of what Lüke is today.
Working behind the bar at Lüke sparked a keen interest in the art of crafting cocktails. Determined to become an expert in the field and join the vibrant cocktail conversation, Cathy spent every evening conversing with her guests not only because she enjoyed the connection, but to explore why and how each person enjoyed their drink. Now a fixture at Lüke San Antonio for five years, Cathy continues to craft new and innovative cocktails that quickly become staples on the menu. The restaurant’s buzzy happy hour is now known for Cathy’s creative takes on New Orleans-inspired cocktails such as the Sunshine & Whiskey, The Cat’s Meow and The Eye of the Beholder. Cathy and her cocktails have already been featured on Kens 5 News, San Antonio Food & Beverage, Behind the bar at Dorcol, the 2015 Masters and various printed publications.
In her role as General Manager, Cathy brings her passion for hospitality and service to the floor every day. Under Cathy’s leadership, Lüke has been recognized as one of the top 100 restaurants in Texas by SA Weekly. Cathy’s exuberant and charming personality resonates in the pleasure and satisfaction of every guest of Lüke.