This is an excerpt from an interview New Orleans Living conducted with Tamron Hall in March 2012.
I love New Orleans. I visit a couple of times a year and it’s like a pilgrimage for me. Without New Orleans I wouldn’t be me and I know that sounds strange as a Texan but it rivals my love for Texas., [I] like Ruth Bodenheimer who runs the Lanaux Mansion. I met her when I was in New Orleans doing some pieces on Katrina. Hoda Kotb actually told me I had to go to Irene’s, so I went there early because I was by myself and didn’t want to look like the lonely-hearts club. Irene and her staff were so fantastic I went there the next night. It’s so delicious and has such a romantic atmosphere and Irene said, “I want you to meet Ruth.” She was so charming and eats there every night alone because her husband passed away, so I sat down with her and we talked politics, life and love and she’s just one of my favorite people. With people in New Orleans, I just can’t define it. I ran track in school so we went to Louisiana a lot, but when I went to New Orleans as an adult, I just felt like I was at home. It was
MiLa is a beautiful, special-occasion place. Oh God, Stella! is another fantastic special-occasion place. I love that juicy burger and that baked potato at Port of Call. I just love that, in New Orleans, you can just as easily go down home with your jeans on and get down, or you can go upscale. People had this notion after Katrina that New Orleans would never be the same, and there were awful words like “You should take everyone out of there!” but the mending has been incredible, especially in the restaurant world. I went to New Orleans right after Katrina to work and I’d go to a restaurant and order something simple like eggs and there would be none. I remember when people put up all the Post-it notes in front of Camellia Grill and now I lovingly wait in that line in 90° humidity for that chili omelet and a milkshake. It’s like Heaven to me.