The Gorilla Man and the Empress of Steak offers as much surprise as a thick Cajun crawfish bisque.
Randy Fertel’s father Rodney, ran for mayor of New Orleans on a single platform: he promised to deliver gorillas to the city zoo. He lost, receiving 310 votes, yet he made good on his word and bought two gorillas, naming them Red Beans and Rice.
His mother, Ruth, a university lab technician, responded to a classified ad and bought a restaurant. That purchase spawned the Ruth’s Chris Steak House empire.
His parents split up when Randy and his brother Jerry were young, leaving much of the child rearing to the family’s black maid, Earner Sylvain. She stayed with the family 42 years, the only job she ever had, moving from housework to the restaurant, cooking, running errands, and commandeering the kitchen.
Fertel’s memoir isn’t a concise history of a business, or a chronological family story. Instead it’s poignant, fun, and informative. A love story to New Orleans, this captivating read includes folklore and facts, family feuds and reconciliations, music and politics, and of course, food, including a crawfish bisque recipe.