LACOMBE -- There was a ripple in the restaurant universe this spring when the Northshore culinary landmark La Provence changed hands. Celebrity chef John Besh, himself a Northshore culinary landmark (he grew up and lives in Slidell), sold La Provence to chef Eric Hunter and his wife Jennifer Pittman Hunter. Until earlier this year, the Hunters operated the respected Fire Oak Grill in Weatherford, Texas, just outside Fort Worth, and previously had worked with well-known Texas chef Tim Love at the Lonesome Dove Bistro.
Taking over a beloved spot like La Provence can be daunting, but the Hunters bring the talent as well as an appreciation for the restaurant’s history. No strangers to the Northshore, the couple have friends and family here. Though the chef was born in Texas, his family moved to Mandeville when he was 10, so he was well familiar with the area and the restaurant.
“We love it here,” said Jennifer recently, “and we don’t want to bring big change. We bought it because we loved it the way it is.” The restaurant’s menu, which will remain, is a reflection of French-inspired Louisiana fare, influenced by the small farm out back. Guests love visiting the Mangalitsa pigs and seeing the chicken coops and small vegetable garden. Honey is produced in the farm’s hives.
La Provence was farm to table before many in the U.S. had ever heard the term. Opened in 1972 by French chef Chris Kerageorgiou, it brought French sensibilities and respect for fresh and local to the little outpost of Lacombe in the heart of St. Tammany Parish. Kerageorgiou mentored a young Besh who worked there in his formative cooking years. Besh, who went on to create the Besh group (which includes James Beard-honored eateries Restaurant August, Domenica and Shaya, among others) bought La Provence from Kerageorgiou in 2007.
La Provence is located at 25020 Highway 190 in Lacombe.