How Four Furloughed Friends Are Bringing Fine Dining Home
NEW ORLEANS, La. - They call themselves, The Furloughed Four, and combined they have over 60 years of restaurant and fine dining experience. The crew, made up of two restaurant leaders/sommeliers and two chefs, were all working at Emeril’s flagship restaurant in New Orleans when the COVID-19 pandemic swept through the nation and subsequently forced almost all restaurants to shut down.
The “four” were out of a job, but far from out of work.
Following the wise words of a repeat customer, they figured out that they could leverage their skills to provide a unique, fine dining experience, the same you would get at a restaurant, except now from the comfort of your own home.
“Our project started when a man who had spent his last 27 wedding anniversaries at Emeril’s said, ‘Well, if the restaurant is closed, then you guys are just going to have to come cook and serve at the house,'” co-founder and sommelier, Ray Gumpert shared.
This sparked an idea for Ray to reach out to his friends and fellow furloughed co-workers to pitch the concept of providing private catered meals at home for their loyal customers. One of the people Ray reached out to was Chef Doug Braselman, who was the Chef de Cuisine at Emeril's before the pandemic.
At the time, Doug was already dabbling in private residential dinners, but now all he needed was a little help in the kitchen and some “front-of-house” expertise.
Doug and Ray, brought on Chef Mario Reyes and sommelier Taylor Terrebonne to complete the dream team, The Furloughed Four.
“Although my career at Emeril’s was cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020, it led to the opportunity to join this amazing team of four,” Chef Mario Reyes said.
Together their brand brings a unique fine dining experience to private residences, complete with craft cocktails, sommelier-led wine pairings, hors d’oeuvres, and a customizable seasonal menu designed by the chefs. On the spring menu, you can find items such as shrimp and ricotta ravioli and charred octopus puttanesca.
“As we started to get busier, and doing more parties, we decided we would set a seasonal menu as our standard menu,” Doug said.
The team indeed got busier. As word of their new business started to spread around the community, they quickly found themselves doing back-to-back events and even celebrated several milestones.
“We recently did our sixty-fifth event and hope to continue our momentum and make a career of this new adventure,” Ray said.
So what can you expect when you hire the Furloughed Four? The team will take the guesswork out of what comes when hosting a private dinner. In addition to crafting the menu, cooking, and serving your guests, they bring along all of the wine glasses you need to have a traditional wine pairing dinner. The certified sommeliers, Ray and Taylor will work with you to develop a wine tasting menu that pairs well with your food makes you look like an impressive host.
“We almost work as private shoppers for the guests and we’re giving our best advice for what we think the wine pairing should be,” Taylor Terrebonne said.
While the future holds many possibilities, the team plans on making the best out of each opportunity as it arises. They are open to establishing a brick-and-mortar location, or even growing the operation to have multiple teams at different homes on the same evening.
“We intend to grow our brand and hope to have a new corner of the market carved out for us,” Ray shared.
As for the most rewarding part of their new business venture? Put simply, “falling back in love with our craft of hospitality after a forced brief hiatus.”
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