Bon Apetit September

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In a city that resonates French food, culture and nomenclature, we often lose sight of the significant contributions, particularly within the culinary world, imparted by Spanish settlers. Luckily we have chefs like Glen Hogh of Vega Tapas Cafe who possess an unbridled passion for Spain. He has made it his mission to promote the diverse cultural history that Spain has provided to New Orleans.

Although the native New Orleanian is ancestrally German, Hogh’s love of all things Spanish is evident a soon as one steps foot into his lively, chic, inviting Old Metairie eatery. A self-professed foodie, the talented self-taught chef spent years in the culinary industry managing several established restaurants before being presented with the opportunity to purchase Vega Tapas Cafe from its original owner about eight years ago.

Hogh had previously managed Vega, so his familiarity of and fondness for the restaurant, coupled with his affinity for Spanish cuisine and culture, made his decision an easy one. While he kept the basic concept of Vega intact, he has since implemented many personal changes, from its decor and lounge area to menu items and signature promotions, which perfectly suit his individual style. (His eight-week-long Tour of the Mediterranean is a summertime culinary highlight that’s not to be missed!) Today, as chef-owner, Hogh is most often found in the kitchen crafting his acclaimed dishes, but between plating paella and sautéeing scallops, his gregarious nature typically leads him into the dining room to visit with regulars. The first true “tapas” (small plates) restaurant in the New Orleans area, Vega has found the perfect marriage between Louisiana’s indigenous ingredients and classic Mediterranean cuisine.

60 Seconds With Chef Glen Hogh

What’s one ingredient that you can’t live without?
Onions

How do you describe your style of cooking?
Rustic, refined, bold, sexy

What are your signature dishes?
Coriander-seared tuna with avocado relish and grilled Moorish spiced pork

What’s your favorite type of music to listen to when cooking?
R& B or funk—loud

If you could cook for anyone, dead or alive, who would it be?
Mom and Dad

What’s your favorite ethnic cuisine?
Vietnamese

When you eat out locally, where do you dine?
Kim Son, on the Westbank

What’s the strangest request you’ve ever had from a diner?
Vegan apple risotto with no cream! WTF?

What’s the best part about being a chef?
To hear people say, “Mmmm”

What’s the most challenging part of being a chef?
Getting the multitude of ideas out of my head and into the minds of others to share the vision

If you were not a chef in New Orleans, in what city would you like to work?
San Sebastian, Spain

What’s your favorite “guilty pleasure” food?
Corndogs, then Haagen-Dazs

Sweet or savory?
Savory

Mild or spicy?
Spicy

Wine or beer?
Wine

Salt or pepper?
Salt

Red Beans or gumbo?
Gumbo … smoked duck with roasted bell pepper and Veron’s andouille

Steamed Prince Edward Island Mussels
Courtesy of chef Glen Hogh

2 dozen (about 3 pounds) fresh chilled mussels
4 tbsp. capers
2 tbsp. fresh dill (chopped)
1/4 red onion (coarsely chopped)
4 tbsp. unsalted butter
3 cups white wine
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients, except mussels into sauce pot over medium-high heat. Once butter begins to melt, place mussels into pot. Cover immediately. Allow 4 minutes for proper steaming. Place contents into bowls and serve with plenty of crusty bread.

Yields 2 to 3 servings

Eight Great Mussel Dishes

Meauxbar
942 N. Rampart St., 569-9979
Mussels steamed in red curry broth with coriander and basil

Café Degas
3127 Esplanade Ave., 945-5635
Prince Edward Island mussels steamed in white wine, fennel and fresh herbs

Vega Tapas Café
2051 Metairie Rd., 836-2007
Steamed mussels with capers, red onions and fresh dill in a white wine butter broth

Bistro at Maison de Ville
733 Rue Toulouse, 528-9206
Mussels poached in a saffron and alligator sausage broth

Patois
6078 Laurel St., 895-9441
Moules frites in a smoky tomato broth with saffron aioli

Crepe Nanou
1410 Robert St., 899-2670
Fresh mussels steamed in garlic, cream and white wine

Flaming Torch
737 Octavia St., 895-0900
Steamed Prince Edward Island mussels poached in white wine, curry and cream