food truck chef to bring authentic cajun fare to tremont

"I don't cook like any of those other guys on the block, I'll tell you that right now," promises Cajun chef Johnny Schulze, tossing out the names of celebrity chefs Michael Symon and Rocco Whalen, both of whom have Tremont restaurants. "I pull from what I learned growing up in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The reason I'm doing this restaurant is I want to cook what I'm really good at."

Schulze is talking about his planned restaurant and watering hole Bourbon Street Barrel Room, which was recently approved by the local Tremont block club, a major feat given the propensity of skiddish neighbors to blackball new liquor licenses. The 100-seat restaurant, which will be located on Professor Avenue between Fahnrenheit and Edison's, is expected to open by next summer.

Bourbon Street will serve authentic, reasonably-priced Cajun cuisine, something that Schulze says doesn't exist in Northeast Ohio. "The way I see it, they live off the land, these Cajuns," he says. "They make do with inexpensive ingredients. It's seafood-heavy. It's about building flavors -- like a jambalaya, it looks very simple when it's served, but when you taste it, you're diving into multiple flavors."

Schulze and co-owners Justin and Barry Clemens know that such rich, spicy flavors pair perfectly with craft beer. So, in addition to traditional Cajun dishes such as gumbo and shrimp creole, Bourbon Street will offer plenty of beer selections, wine and liquor. "You might even be able to order a hurricane," hints Schulze.

When he was recruited by the owners, the veteran chef had been operating the Zydeco Bistro food truck with no plans to open a restaurant. "I built a food truck to retire -- I didn't want to work for anyone ever again," Schulze says with a laugh. "I tried to say no at first. But Tremont has the right atmosphere; it's culturally diverse and feels like you're outside the French quarter. I can pull this off."

Source: Johnny Schulze
Writer: Lee Chilcote
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