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Donald Link

Louisiana native Donald Link doesn’t subscribe to the old adage that you can’t go home again. Although Link headed west in the 1990s, to attend the California Culinary Academy and work his way around San Francisco restaurants such as Traci Des Jardins’s acclaimed Jardinière, he was thrilled to go home again (twice), each time upping his game in the kitchen. A 1997 externship at chef Susan Spicer’s Bayona, in New Orleans, kicked off a re-emergence with Link’s deeply southern roots.

In 2000, again with Spicer, Link launched French-American bistro Herbsaint onto the New Orleans Warehouse District scene. More than a decade later, the Times Picayune called Herbsaint “one of the quintessential southern restaurants of its generation.”

“The region is in my DNA,” says Link, the 2007 James Beard Award winner for Best Chef/South, who grew up in Cajun country, where his great-grandparents had been rice farmers, and his grandparents taught him how to cook up rich gumbos and smothered pork. In Link’s 2009 cookbook, Real Cajun: Rustic Home Cooking from Donald Link’s Louisiana, he says, “My most cherished, most powerful food memories involve two ingredients: rice and pork. They’re both crucial to Cajun cooking, and while I can’t imagine one without the other, no single food embodies the spirit and culture of southwest Louisiana better than the mighty pig.”

Link’s ode to the pig, Cochon, the restaurant he opened in 2006 with chef-partner Stephen Stryjewski, was named by The New York Times “one of the top three restaurants that count.” At Cochon, Link and Stryjewski dove deep into house-made boudin, andouille, and a raft of other charcuterie, eventually opening the casual artisanal meat market/wine bar Cochon Butcher, and a Cochon outpost in nearby Lafayette.

The pair has now given Gulf seafood its due at restaurant Pêche, in the Warehouse District, which won the 2014 James Beard Foundation award for Best New Restaurant. And Link this year published his second cookbook, Down South: Bourbon, Pork, Gulf Shrimp & Second Helpings of Everything. This is one chef who’s not leaving home again anytime soon.

  • Moveable Feast

    Jalapeño Crab and Tomato Salad

    Get your hands on the freshest crab available for this brightly flavored salad—Chef Link used just-caught crab from Louisiana’s Lake Hermitage. The crabmeat may ‘weep’ a bit, but that’s just…

  • Moveable Feast

    Classic Bread Pudding

    A drizzle of rich caramel sauce makes bread pudding sing. When making the sauce, sugar can burn easily, so use a heavy-based pot, preferably one that doesn’t have a dark…

  • Recipe

    Boiled Crawfish and Crabs

    Live blue crabs and crawfish require cleaning before you cook them. To clean the live crabs, hold each one with tongs and rinse under cold running water, being careful not…

  • Moveable Feast

    Woodland Plantation, Louisiana (209)

    In season 2, episode 9 of Moveable Feast with Fine Cooking, host Pete Evans visits the banks of the big muddy herself, the Mississippi River, to feast on bayou-style seafood.

  • Recipe

    Lake Charles Dirty Rice

    The traditional Cajun dish of dirty rice (rice cooked with chicken livers, spices, and aromatics) is the perfect pairing for New Orleans chef Donald Link's Sunday Night Fried Chicken. The…

  • Recipe

    Sunday Night Fried Chicken

    New Orleans chef Donald Link's undestandably popular fried chicken is made just like his granny used to make in Lake Charles: seasoned, skillet-fried, dark, and so crunchy that each bite…

  • Recipe

    Slow-Roasted Pork Shoulder with Kumquats and Chiles

    The rich topsoil along the banks of the Mississippi south of New Orleans makes for some of the best citrus the world has to offer. The kumquats impart a unique…

  • Recipe

    Parmesan Bacon Gougères

    With a crackly shell and a light, pillowy middle, gougères, also called cheese puffs, are one of the most perfect foods to pop in your mouth between sips of your…

  • Recipe

    Banana Pudding with Moonshine Whipped Cream

    Banana pudding is the creamy, soothing treat that Southern grandmas and aunts across the region prepare for their families. Creating individual parfaits makes for a pretty presentation, and it feels…

  • Recipe

    Smoky Pork Chili with Black-Eyed Peas

    The moderately spicy chiles for this smoky pork and black-eyed pea chili were chosen for their flavor, not their heat, which means you can appreciate all of the flavors in…