From his earliest memories, Chef Tom Wolfe’s childhood was filled with food, passion for preparing it, and sharing it with others.
His large family (five brothers and sisters), profited from the fresh vegetables his grandmother and mother grew in their gardens. This established his commitment to high standards in the products he uses and prepares.
His neighborhood family friends would come together weekly, giving Wolfe an opportunity to help his mother prepare traditional New Orleans dishes. They would work in the kitchen all day in order to make large enough quantities to feed up to 25 people.
Wolfe further credits Henry Schmitt, a family friend, as instrumental in igniting his passion for exploring different types of food. Schmitt introduced Wolfe to sausages and fresh seafood after his trips to the Bayou country.
Wolfe wanted to channel his casual cooking experiences into a professional career. He began by creating his own catering company, which taught him the basic principles of owning a business in the food industry, then by enrolling in Delgado University’s Culinary Arts program.
After fine-tuning his culinary abilities, Wolfe landed a job working for New Orleans’ esteemed restaurateur family, the Brennans, at Mr. B’s Bistro in the French Quarter. The menu at Mr. B’s was comprised of gumbos, jambalaya, barbecued shrimp, and other popular local dishes. Preparing Louisiana foods professionally reinforced his love for local cuisine.
From Mr. B’s, Wolfe went on to work at one of the hottest restaurants in the country, Emeril’s, with Chef Emeril Lagasse. He mastered all positions, including pastry, saucier, and butcher stations, eventually reaching the position of sous chef. Wolfe worked alongside Lagasse to develop dishes and menus and was often selected to assist him at nationally recognized culinary events, such as The Dinner of the Decade and James Beard Dinners, where he also had the opportunity to cook alongside greats such as Charlie Trotter and Larry Forgione. At Thanksgiving, it was Wolfe who appeared on Good Morning America alongside Emeril to demonstrate the preparation of Cajun Fried Turkey, a traditional New Orleans holiday dish.
During his tenure at Emeril’s, Wolfe worked on his days off building his catering business. He dreamed of opening his own restaurant. After marrying his high school sweetheart and working at Emeril’s for eight years, Wolfe and his wife Tracy had saved enough money and found the perfect location on Lake Pontchartrain. They decided the time was right to launch Wolfe’s of New Orleans.
In developing the menu at Wolfe’s of New Orleans, Wolfe wanted to challenge traditional New Orleans dishes that he had grown up preparing and enjoying, by applying techniques and styles he had learned while working at and visiting some of the most cutting edge restaurants in the country.
Wolfe’s of New Orleans has been growing in popularity. It caught the attention of several national critics, and was selected by Bon Appetit as the best new formal dining restaurant in New Orleans, and earned Wolfe a 2003 StarChefs.com Rising Stars Award.