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Food for Thought

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New Orleans Living has a one-on-one chat with Millennial Restaurant of the Year Chef Jordan Ruiz.

MoversandshakersSeptMillennials are a unique group of individuals. They are highly engaged, informed and experiential, and they are certainly foodies at their core. Social Renaissance, a series of four annual events produced by locally based Spears Consulting Group and tailored to young professionals across the region, recently added a restaurant competition to their second annual Millennial Awards and invited guests to choose the winner. Ten fantastic New Orleans restaurants participated in the competition: Aloha Sushi, Besh Steak, Galatoire’s 33 Bar & Steak, The Grill Room, The Irish House, Mizado Cocina, Manning’s, MoPho, Namese and The Munch Factory.

After guests at the Millennial Awards tasted food from all 10 restaurants and voted, the decisive winner was The Munch Factory. Owner and Chef Jordan Ruiz is a New Orleans native who has traveled all over the country learning and perfecting his craft. He received his professional training at the Culinary Institute of America in New York. Ruiz, who has loved cooking since he was a child, had always hoped to open his own restaurant one day. After years of cooking for his family, he got his first job in the kitchen at Semolina Restaurant as a prep cook. He then progressed throughout his career doing stints in some of the top kitchens in New Orleans, including Ralph’s on the Park, the Loews Hotel and Commander’s Palace.

In April 2011, Ruiz and his wife Alexis opened The Munch Factory in Gentilly. The Munch Factory specializes in soulful home cooking with a contemporary flare. Jordan says he wants customers to feel at home, like they are having dinner with friends and family, when they visit the restaurant — and the friendly and accommodating staff at the restaurant is a big part of that experience.

The restaurant competition’s winning dish was Jordan’s braised beef short ribs with smoked Gouda corn grits, finished off with a tobacco-infused onion ring. For dessert, The Munch Factory provided guests with bread pudding. While the award-winning dish was a big hit with the event goers, Jordan says he does not have a favorite item on the menu — because he loves every item on the menu. “If I didn’t love it, it wouldn’t make it to our menu,” he says. The Munch Factory menu boasts some traditional favorites, such as cheeseburgers, po-boys, salads, shrimp and grits, blackened redfish topped with jumbo lump crabmeat and a host of other delectable options. A big favorite amongst visitors is the three-cheese mac ’n’ cheese, which is no surprise for a chef whose main goal is to provide comfort food.

The Munch Factory is in its third year — still pretty new in terms of restaurants — and Jordan Alexis have two small children, including a one-month-old. “Knowing I’m working to build something for my babies is what keeps me motivated and makes me work so hard,” Jordan says. “They inspire me.” And you inspire us, Chef Ruiz! 6325 Elysian Fields Ave., (504) 324-5372, themunchfactory.net