Café Reconcile is paying homage to Ella Brennan and Anthony Bourdain the best way it knows how: food.
For the rest of June, the cafe will offer the Brennan and Bourdain Po-boy, affectionately nicknamed the B&B. It’s a heap of buffalo shrimp, topped with crumbled blue cheese and bacon.
It’s a step away from the usual menu of red beans, stuffed bell peppers and smothered pork chops, but staffers said it’s a fitting tribute for two people who meant so much to Café Reconcile.
“Pretty much you’re dealing with legends,” said Eugene Temple, executive chef and general manager.
Brennan and Bourdain left their stamp on the program, which is more than the neighborhood lunch joint. Its cafe is just one facet of a program that teaches at-risk youth life skills and helps them find work in the hospitality industry. Alumni who finish the program find work at many of the city’s restaurants, including a number of Brennan’s establishments.
“She allowed our young people to have jobs,” Temple said. “Everybody knows about Ella Brennan, what she meant to the city of New Orleans and what she meant to Café Reconcile.”
Bourdain paid a visit to the kitchen in 2008 as part of an episode of the Travel Channel’s show “No Reservations.” He said that “Café Reconcile is a second chance, a place where … anyone can remake themselves.” His death gives the chance for staff to talk to students about something usually not covered in the kitchen: mental health.
“It’s opened up the conversation for suicide prevention,” Temple said. “He looked like he was doing fine, and then all of a sudden something happened.”
Café Reconcile offers mental health services to all of its students and alumni who might not have the resources to get that help.
“I think the stigma around the city of New Orleans -- maybe around the country -- is that young people don’t want counseling,” said Croix McClendon, the café’s education and employment manager. “I think it’s more so that they don’t know how to get it. So when they come here and we tell them that we offer that, a lot of times, a lot of them voluntarily sign up for our mental health services.”
The services even extend to those students who may have not completed the Reconcile program.
“You’re always a part of the Reconcile community,” McClendon said. “We tried to address it from that aspect, so that they know there’s always support here, there’s always counseling available.
“If you’re going through something, please let us know, or let anyone know, so hopefully we can resolve the situation before you take drastic measures.”
Brennan and Bourdain not only contributed financially to the program but gave it invaluable exposure beyond the city.
“It let them know a lot about Central City,” Temple said. “What the young people were doing in the area, the challenges they’re facing and how they can overcome them.”
Cafe Reconcile is located at 1631 Oretha Castle Haley Blvd. Lunch hours are Monday to Friday, 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. New classes for students begin in mid-July and the cafe is accepting applications.