Chef's Choice: Josh Galliano, Monarch

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click to enlarge Josh Galliano, executive chef at Monarch - Robin Wheeler
Robin Wheeler
Josh Galliano, executive chef at Monarch
In the summer of 2005, Monarch executive chef Josh Galliano was working at New York's Restaurant Daniel when his girlfriend, Audra, paid him a visit. She wasn't happy with what she saw.

"She said, 'Okay, A, you look anorexic. You're working too much and not eating anything. B, you're broke. I can't believe you're paying for this apartment. C, your subletter just bailed on you.' August 17th, she said to pack my bags, we were going back. Got back to New Orleans and started working at Restaurant August."

A native of Laplace, Louisiana, which is 30 miles from New Orleans and sandwiched between the Mississippi River and Lake Pontchartrain, Galliano wasn't fazed by the hurricane warnings for the weekend of August 26th. Audra talked him into leaving with their two dogs and a full laundry basket shortly before Hurricane Katrina struck.

click to enlarge Chef's Choice: Josh Galliano, Monarch
Robin Wheeler
What they thought would be a few days visiting friends in Laplace and Lake Charles, Louisiana, stretched into weeks. They visited her family in Okawville, Illinois, while they waited to be let back into New Orleans. "We started work at the end of September [at St. Louis' An American Place]. It was the second weekend in October when they finally let us back into New Orleans to collect our stuff. When we got there it ... there's absolutely nothing for us to do here." Next thing he knew, he and Audra were laying down roots in Okawville.

Such has been the path of Galliano's career: a series of unexpected opportunities coupled with constant striving for the next level. He didn't set out to be a chef. He has a master's degree in political science, but academia bored him. While in college, he waited tables at a location of the chain restaurant Black-eyed Pea and cooked at Macaroni Grill until he met a pair of caterers who gave him an opportunity to hone his skills.

"My [catering] boss Barbara was like, 'What do you want to do?' and I'd tell her what I wanted to cook and she'd let me. It was awesome. As long as it fit with what her clients wanted, great."

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