What to expect at Chemin à la Mer, Donald Link's new Four Seasons New Orleans restaurant

Brad Japhe
Southern Kitchen
Jumbo shrimp with white beans and pistou from Chemin a la Mer at Four Seasons New Orleans.

Over the past two decades, chef Donald Link's name has been synonymous with New Orleans cuisine. It’s no small feat, considering the competition and sheer density of that particular dining scene.

A string of successes — beginning with Herbsaint in 2000, running through Cochon in 2009, Peche in 2013 and most recently Gianna in 2019 — has solidified this enviable stature. You can easily find his eateries peppered across the city’s vibrant Warehouse District. But one place you haven’t been able to taste his talent is inside any of the Big Easy’s big-time hotels — until now.

With the opening of Chemin à la Mer on the fifth floor of the brand new Four Seasons Hotel New Orleans, the James Beard Award-winning chef is hopping into the hotel space with style and grace. Here’s what you can expect to see, sip and savor inside the season’s most highly-anticipated opening:

The views and the menu

From its perch above the terminus of Canal Street, the restaurant promises stunning views of the Mississippi River meandering just outside. The interior is inspired by mid-century color themes, incorporating Gulf Coast elements from rattan banquettes to artwork from one of Link’s favorite Southern artists, John Alexander.

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The menu takes its cues from Creole inspirations, a marked departure for a chef who rose to fame showcasing Cajun delicacies. It’s not hard to see a through-line here to classic French bistros along the River Seine; duck confit, pan-roasted foie gras and pate, as well as côte de boeuf will all play prominently.

“A few recent trips to Paris reignited my passion,” Link said. “As I get on in my career, I like simpler, more focused flavors.”

The dining room at Chemin a la Mer at Four Seasons New Orleans.

Link was actually sitting at a Parisian cafe when he came up with the name for the restaurant, with unexpected help from friend and rock legend Jimmy Buffet.

“I told him we were on the fence with several names and I was struggling,” Link remembered. “He (told me) he thought of it as the path to the sea: Chemin à la Mer.”

But this is still New Orleans, after all. So the traditional seafood of the region will be on heavy rotation.

A seafood platter at Chemin a la Mer at Four Seasons New Orleans.

“A large oyster bar takes center stage here,” the chef said of the dining room setup. “Oysters, West Indies crab salad and steamed Louisiana shrimp (will be among the signature items). And I had to do a gumbo, but I wanted it to be different from my other restaurants, so I went old school Creole and thickened it with okra as opposed to a roux.”

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What you'll want to drink

Backing these refined flavors is a cocktail list also fit for Francophiles, developed by the hotel’s beverage manager Hadi Ktiri and Cary Palmer, fobeverage director with Development Link Restaurant Group.

Mainstays include a ti’ punch, a classic Martinique mixer built around the French island’s appellation d'origine contrôlée-protected Rhum Agricole. That same spirit collides with Creole shrub and mezcal in a smoky riff on a mai tai. Champagne shares the glass with passionfruit liqueur in a kir royale variation.

An expansive collection of wine will lean heavy into the old world blends of Burgundy and Bordeaux. Chef Link’s preferred pairing at the moment is a bottle sourced from the former, sipped alongside his yuzu ponzu-dressed A5 Kobe strip steak.

Kobe beef at Chemin a la Mer at Four Seasons New Orleans.

Poised to become Link’s latest hit, it’s hard to believe the concept might not have got off the ground if it weren't for Four Seasons New Orleans general manager Mali Carow.

“I met her last year, and we got to know each other,” he recalls of their budding friendship. “I was just trying to welcome her to the city, but I had a feeling she might be buttering me up for an ask. It was actually a three-month struggle, trying to figure out if (a hotel restaurant) was something that I really wanted to do. Ultimately, I realized the Four Seasons shares a lot of the core values that our restaurant group shares and I thought it could be a positive partnership — and a way to bring a new concept outside of what we normally would do.”

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A local landmark

It also enables him to hold a sizable footprint inside a local landmark. The 34-story tower that holds the Four Seasons was constructed in 1967 by modernist architect Edward Durell Stone, the same visionary behind Radio City Music Hall and the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

And although those design elements inform the look and feel of Chemin à la Mer, according to Carow, the overall experience is pure Link.

“Donald’s concept here is a personal reflection of who he is,” the hotelier said. “Not just from what you find on your plate, but in every detail. We look forward to Chemin à la Mer becoming one of New Orleans’ favorite dining experiences.”

James Beard Award-winning chef Donald Link honors his Louisiana heritage at Chemin à la Mer

The hotel, for its part, has quickly asserted itself as one of the city’s premier luxury destinations. Guests this winter can make use of their “Reconnect and Rediscover” promotion.

It affords curated itineraries, including a ride on the historic St. Charles Streetcar with a local historian and a musical excursion led by a second-line brass band. You’ll find comparable experiences at Four Seasons urban properties across North America, from redwood walking tours outside of San Francisco to art gallery sightseeing in Lower Manhattan.

There’s only one hotel where you’ll find Link, however. And that’s unlikely to change anytime soon. What’s next for the culinary superstar?

“Let me get open first, and we'll see," he said.