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Up Close & Personal: Chef Ian Schnoebelen

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Esteemed local chef Ian Schnoebelen branches out to the Bywater with his second restaurant, Mariza.

“For three months, I did nothing but peel potatoes, carrots and onions,” Chef Ian Schnoebelen confided with a laugh. He’s come quite a long way since his first kitchen job at the tender age of 16. Born in Hawaii and raised in Southern California, Schnoebelen worked in kitchens throughout college while pursuing a degree in anthropology from Long Beach University, but he didn’t quite become another Indiana Jones. “I quit because I knew I wanted to be a chef,” he said.

As a prep cook in the Newporter Resort in Newport Beach, Schnoebelen established a strong work ethic from his first mentor, Chef Jack Kalustian. Schnoebelen decided to move to New Orleans and worked as Executive Chef of the Red Room, as well as played an instrumental role in the opening of the Commander’s Palace outpost in Las Vegas. He then spent several years as the sous chef at John Harris’ popular restaurant, Lilette, on Magazine Street.

In 2006, Schnoebelen and his partner, Laurie Casebonne, opened Iris in the Riverbend where it was named the Best New Restaurant by New Orleans Magazine. Later, they moved the restaurant to its current location inside the Bienville House Hotel in the French Quarter. While Iris remains a popular destination for locals and tourists alike, partners Schnoebelen and Casebonne have ventured out into a second restaurant, Mariza, which was inspired by a recent trip they took to Italy.

“It’s really exciting to be opening a restaurant in my own neighborhood,” Schnoebelen admitted. “We’re making our own pastas, perfecting our gnocchi and offering our own house-cured meats or ‘salumi.’” Mariza opened its doors about a month ago inside the Rice Mill Lofts in the Bywater. Fans are already raving about the Italian-inspired menu featuring dishes like Lamb Belly Orechiette, Yellowfin Tuna Carpaccio and Duck Ragout Papardelle.

–Photography David Tompkins