The Scoop: Louisiana native Chef Donald Link shares his upscale take on Cajun and Southern cooking at his award-winning restaurant Cochon. If you’re looking to host a rehearsal dinner, wedding, or reception with a menu that includes his unique flavors, you can book Chef Link’s venue Calcasieu. The private space is located above Cochon and is named after the Louisiana parish where Chef Link grew up. Meticulous attention to detail and individualized menu planning from Cochon and other Chef Link restaurants sets Calcasieu and its catering team apart from any other venue in New Orleans.
Many couples dream of serving food from an award-winning chef at their rehearsal dinner or wedding, and, in New Orleans, Chef Donald Link’s upscale Cajun cuisine from his famed Cochon Restaurant is at the top of a lot of wish lists.
That’s why Chef Link created a place where couples can celebrate their vows while enjoying New Orleans fare from Cochon and its sister restaurants. He calls the private party-only venue Calcasieu, after the Louisiana parish where he grew up.
The Calcasieu space can be completely customized based on the needs of each party. Brandy Trepagnier, the Director of Events and Catering at Calcasieu, recalls a small wedding for 60 people that was held at Calcasieu. Its four dining rooms were transformed into four distinct experiences.
“We set up two long tables and did a mix of family style and plated dining,” she said. “Then we got the attendees up for formal dances in another room. When the formal dancing was over, we opened up another room for hors-d’oeuvres and moonshine tasting.”
Calcasieu is located on the second floor above the Cochon Restaurant and Cochon Butcher, a sandwich counter and a wine bar. It has high ceilings, many windows, and red brick walls that preserve many of the industrial elements of the former warehouse. The multi-room setup is ideal for both elegant weddings and rehearsal dinners.
“We include menu items from Cochon and our other sister restaurants. Specifically, we focus on items that work well for large-service dining,” said Brandy.
Couples appreciate Calcasieu because many rehearsal dinner or wedding details are taken care of. Not only can the event team provide a list of vendors who are familiar with the space, but they can also offer advice about how to host a wedding in New Orleans.
“We’re focused on food and beverage planning, but we also provide a comprehensive list of local vendors who are familiar with working at Calcasieu,” Brandy said.
Serving Delicious Food From Award-Winning Restaurants
As is true at Cochon, many of Calcasieu’s menu items are derived from Chef Link’s James Beard-award winning cookbook “Real Cajun.” Favorite party dishes include gumbo and his signature Cochon de Lait, a suckling pig cooked over an open fire.
Some of the most popular offerings at Calcasieu include a duck confit and dirty rice dish and banana brown butter tarts from Chef Link’s French-Italian restaurant, Herbsaint.
“One couple had their first date at Cochon and then booked their wedding at Calcasieu to share the meals that kicked off their relationship with their entire guest list,” Brandy said.
Indeed, many of Calcasieu’s menu items are Cajun-inspired, as that is Chef Link’s specialty. However, the venue offers plenty of other options for couples who want to branch out. In addition to menu items from its sister restaurants, Calcasieu offers its own menu items designed for large-scale service.
“We serve simple but delectable entrees, like braised short ribs, for those who don’t want to take the deep dive into Cajun cuisine,” Brandy said. “I like to call what we serve, ‘The Link restaurant tour.’”
In addition to the food menu, Calcasieu allows couples to customize the drink menu for their wedding, reception, or rehearsal dinner. The standard bar package includes beer, wine, and cocktails customized to fit the theme.
“Some couples choose drinks they loved at Cochon, or we can accommodate things that aren’t on any of our menus,” said Brandy. “One couple requested sangria, so I spent three hours making a sangria that turned out to be a big hit.”
Making the Big Day Unforgettable
New Orleans is a popular city for couples planning destination weddings. Many people feel connected to New Orleans, whether they were born there or visited as tourists and recognized it as a vibrant city where they could host a great wedding.
“You don’t have to plan every day for your guests, and you can give your guests a list of wonderful places to visit,” Brandy said. “You don’t have to do as much of the heavy leg work as you would for a destination wedding in, say, Jamaica.”
Because it is so inviting, New Orleans started to see a rise in couples looking for unique venues for weddings and the parties that surround them. Calcasieu was created to help fulfill those needs.
The couples who book Calcasieu as a wedding venue come from a variety of different backgrounds. Many have ties to the city, and either lived there or attended one of the city’s universities. Some weddings are traditional while others are less conventional. Most couples, though, are already big fans of Chef Link’s food.
Calcasieu’s catering is highly sought-after, especially when New Orleans sees good weather. In the slower season, the team still caters at least three weddings per month. But when the wedding season is in full swing, the venue hosts multiple weddings each week.
Though Calcasieu is a venue, its team is also available to cater events off-site. While the venue is a little more intimate, the Calcasieu catering team can serve up to 1,000 guests at locations throughout the city.
The Calcasieu Team is Focused on Guest Satisfaction
The award-winning menus and the team’s commitment to creating unique rehearsal dinners and weddings are what make Calcasieu such a sought-after venue. That’s why couples from around the country are quick to get their events on Calcasieu’s schedule.
“A lot of our clients no longer live in New Orleans or haven’t been here before. They rely on us to help them plan their whole events,” Brandy said. “We had a client recently who thoroughly enjoyed how easy it was to plan her event with us remotely,”
With the popularity of the event space, Brandy and the team plan to grow Calcasieu’s off-site catering business, as well. Though the venue is booked up during the high season, the Calcasieu team can cater an event anywhere in the city.
“It’s someone’s wedding, and we’re creating that moment for them. I like to think we’re making an impact on people’s lives.” — Brandy Trepagnier, Calcasieu Director of Events and Catering
“We’re trying to get the word out about our catering,” Brandy said. “We want to let people know that we cater for events. The Calcasieu venue is perfect for weddings of 100 to 150 people. If someone wants a wedding with 300 people or more, we can cater it at a venue of their choice.”
Whether off-site or on, the Calcasieu menu is a different experience from any other catering in the city. For one, diners can enjoy food from Chef Link’s award-winning restaurants. This means dinner rolls and desserts baked fresh at the bakery every day, as well as meats butchered and cured in-house. Other caterers in New Orleans can’t match that level of dedication to detail.
Brandy said she feels it’s important for her team to tailor each wedding experience to the taste of the couple.
“You can’t get those days back. It’s someone’s wedding, and we’re creating that moment for them. I like to think we’re making an impact on people’s lives,” she told us.