By Matt Bennett
Tucked away off Laurel Street in downtown Baton Rouge sits a trendy yet casual wine bar and restaurant. Known for impeccably blending excellent wine with delectable cuisine and topping it all off with exceptional service, Blend has generated quite a buzz throughout the Capital City. Their successful recipe lies partly in their atmosphere and endless bottles of wine but also in their kitchen with Executive Chef Troy Deano.
Born and raised a little ways down the Mississippi River in Chalmette, Deano got his start in the service industry as a dishwasher for his uncle’s restaurant at the age of 15.
“I’d kind of pop in and out, do a few weeks for him whenever he needed help,” said Deano.
Eventually, Deano left for college but soon realized his passion marinated better in the kitchen.
“This is a business where you learn way more hands on than you’ll ever learn in a classroom,” said Deano. “You’re only going to get out of this business what you put into it. When I’m not here I’m reading cookbooks. I’m always trying to better myself; every time I go out to eat I’m learning something.”
A self-taught chef, Deano recalls being a kid and calling his grandmother asking her what all goes in red beans and rice.
“I had an idea,” said Deano. “But, as a 16-year-old you just really didn’t know what and that’s how I learned how to cook. So, I guess you could say self-taught in a way.”
Before Blend, Deano served as the executive chef at L’Auberge’s acclaimed 18 Steak and while he enjoyed his time there, ultimately he craved more freedom for his cooking.
Preparing occasional items like ossobuco-style lamb neck over roasted sweet potatoes or a hamburger topped with an in-house crafted beer Gouda cheese, his culinary liberty definitely shines and in a delicious way at Blend.
Never satisfied, Deano constantly changes the menu as much as once or twice a week.
“Constantly I get yelled at a lot because of my paper goods cost,” joked Deano.
However while the menu at Blend often mixes things up, Deano sticks with his principles – always fresh and always local.
A regular at the Saturday morning farmers market, Deano settles for nothing but the finest of ingredients in all of his dishes. Earlier in the week, when a fish company from Hawaii called him with their sales pitch he respectfully declined.
“If it’s not straight out the Gulf I just don’t use it here,” said Deano. “All our seafood is something that you find locally. The beef we use is something that’s locally sourced. The pork we use is locally sourced. So we try to do everything we can locally.”
Having been cooking for 20 years now, Deano, still only 35-years old, shows no signs of slowing down. And, in a business known for being cutthroat, Deano relentlessly pushes himself.
“You got to do six days a week. Seven days a week when you have to. Five days a week you better thank the lord you had two days off,” said Deano. “There’s always someone out there that’s working harder than you, always remember that.”