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'Furloughed Four' redefining fine dining for the COVID era

“It’s something totally different than what people are used to and hopefully it’s a new paradigm that people can move toward."

NEW ORLEANS — Out of work and hungry to get back into the hospitality scene, four friends are keeping the fires burning and the wine pouring.

“None of us were expecting to be out of work for as long as we were,” sommelier Ray Gumpert said.

All four worked at Emeril’s New Orleans and all four were furloughed when restaurants started cutting back because of the COVID pandemic.

“How do we redirect and that’s how this was kind of born, thinking outside of the box and what do we do next,” chef Doug Braselman said.

What this culinary crew did next is what they do best. Known as the “Furloughed Four,” two chefs and two sommeliers, they’re now using the 60 years of experience between them to serve up personalized fine dining experiences, customizable right down to the menu.

“We love bringing this experience to people. It’s the best parts of our job that we like to do,” sommelier Taylor Terrebonne said.

From fresh pasta and stuffed clams to wine pairings and table service, it’s all plated and poured in the comfort of homes.  

“It takes a lot to have four strangers coming into your home and trust me, when we get into the kitchen, we’re digging through it, trying to find what we need,” chef Mario Reyes said.

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“We clean your kitchen and if you want to enjoy it in our socks you can because you’re at your house,” Gumpert said.

Through word of mouth, what started as a simple idea to get back to work is now heating up with folks looking for a nice restaurant experience, no reservations needed.

“After this shutdown people were missing that experience,” Reyes said.

“We did eight events in five days so that became a hectic little run,” Gumpert said. 

“We’ve done a bunch of these now and we’re only getting better at them,” Braselman said.

“It’s something totally different than what people are used to and hopefully it’s a new paradigm that people can move toward,” Terrebonne said.

And a future, these four are raising a glass to.

The Furloughed Four even has a pop-up dinner planned next week at Atchafalaya Restaurant in Uptown New Orleans. 

For more information on the Furloughed Four, check out their facebook page.

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