Skip to main content

Chris Montero

General Manager

Chris Montero did what very few have done – he changed it all at age forty, after a perfectly good career in hospitality - which included owning a bar, being a maître d’, and liquor sales. Montero had a life changing moment that made him see that his heart and mind belonged in the kitchen. Now in his sixties, having spent twenty or so years in a Chef’s coat, Montero has the good fortune to be an integral part of the Ralph Brennan Restaurant Group family. As a self-made historian [not by default being a seventh generation New Orleanian] – there could not be a better fit for Montero than the role of General Manager and Executive Chef at one of the oldest establishments in the city and the French Quarter – Napoleon House; and General Manager of Café NOMA at the New Orleans Museum of Art, filled with an extensive collection of Old Masters and contemporary artists – international, national, and local.

But his deep-down love of food goes deeper than that – much deeper. The Spanish Monteros arrived in New Orleans over 200 years ago. His grandmother, a classic Creole New Orleans housewife, was a great cook from a long line of great cooks; so was his father.  In the family home on Canal Street in mid-city he was always the kid drawn to the kitchen, not only by the smells, but it was an art form in itself.  His earliest memories are of learning the making of a perfect roux, brown butters, meunières and étouffées. "There’s still nothing that can touch my grandmother’s seafood stuffed bell peppers, or her daube glacée," he muses.

During his time at LSU as a journalism major, Montero spent years as a bartender at the city’s premier French restaurant, Louis XVI; it hadn’t taken him long to drift into the kitchen, learning the ropes under classical chef Daniel Bonnot.  He considers local chefs like Warren Leruth and Paul Prudhomme mentors, and if you ask him where he went to culinary school, he'll laughingly reply "the French Quarter!"  In the 1980s, he explains, "the heavy-hitters of the restaurant world were the well-established – classic, continental European chefs.  It was Auguste Escoffier way that gave chefs technique, discipline, and service style."

When he made the conscious decision to return to the kitchen in 1999, Montero had not only the genetic predisposition, but a solid classical background and a mature determination to keep on cooking. Ralph Brennan hired Montero at BACCO, and he moved up fast. He progressed from executive sous chef to chef de cuisine – a position he held over the course of eleven years. Montero then served as executive chef of the relaxed and congenial café b in Metairie, creating his own refined interpretations of comfort foods and New Orleans favorites.

Montero claims he is in the best place of his career now as the General Manager and Executive Chef of the beloved landmark, Napoleon House, epitomizing everything that is New Orleans – including the many cultures that gave the city its roots and character. As one of the most historic buildings in the entire city, it was once owned by a Frenchman, the first Mayor of New Orleans; then purchased by an Italian family, the Impastatos, and it remained in their family for over 150 years; and now it belongs to another institutional New Orleans family, led by Ralph Brennan, with a deep Irish heritage. Its most popular items are the Italian sandwich – the Muffuletta, unique to New Orleans – and the Pimm’s Cup, go figure, it’s a British aperitif [another culture getting in the mix!] Brennan and Montero have accepted the stewardship of this beloved establishment and its importance to the history of New Orleans.

Montero is also the General Manager of Ralph Brennan's Café NOMA in the New Orleans Museum of Art.  "The museum is in the heart of City Park, which is enjoying a true renaissance.  It’s really the darling of the city, in an iconic building with more than 100 years of history," he points out. The café, named 'One of America's Best Museum Restaurants' by Travel + Leisure, features a menu that links its offerings to the museum's art collections and the city's culinary traditions.