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The Roosevelt New Orleans Celebrates Official Opening with Ribbon-Cutting

Posted on: July 31st, 2009 by admin 2 Comments

Milestone Includes Ceremony in Typical New Orleans Style, Along with Dignitaries Present and “Past”


At The Roosevelt’s ribbon-cutting ceremony July 30 are (left to right) former Louisiana Gov. Huey P. Long (played by a local actor); principal owner Sam Friedman of Dimension Development; Alan Rose with Dimension Development; Tod Chambers, general manager of the hotel; Paul Brown, president of Global Brands and Shared Services for Hilton Hotels Corporation); Jackie Clarkson, New Orleans City Council vice president); and Stacy Head, member of the New Orleans City Council.


Also at the ceremony were former President Teddy Roosevelt, portrayed by a local actor; Tod Chambers, hotel general manager; Paul Brown, president of Global Brands and Shared Services for Hilton Hotels Corporation; Tim Benolken, senior vice president, also of Hilton Hotels Corporation; Andy Slater, area vice president of Hilton Hotels Corporation); and former Louisiana Gov. Huey P. Long, portrayed by a local actor.

To mark its official return as New Orleans’ grand-hotel and a top American luxury property, Hilton Hotels Corporation executives along with New Orleans dignitaries including two “legends” last seen at the hotel almost three-fourths of a century ago cut the ribbon today to The Roosevelt New Orleans, a downtown landmark.

“Today represents the passion and determination of the people of New Orleans, its city leaders and our ownership to preserving the past while celebrating the future of this great city and iconic hotel,” said Tod Chambers, general manager of the 116-year-old hotel. “Ecstatic, proud and a tremendous sense of accomplishment are words that come to mind.”

Following a $145-million historic restoration that returns the Roosevelt name for the first time since 1965, the hotel is the newest member of the Waldorf Astoria Brand. “The Roosevelt holds a special place in the hearts of New Orleanians and visitors from around the world. Today is definitely a day for celebration.”

Joining Chambers to cut the ribbon was Paul Brown, president of Global Brands and Shared Services for Hilton Hotels Corporation, of which the Waldorf Astoria Brand is the luxury arm.

To be part of the Waldorf Astoria Brand, a hotel must be an iconic local landmark that radiates timeless luxury, impeccable service and world-class style,” Brown said. “The Roosevelt does just that. From its classic elegance and storied venues, such as the Blue Room and the Sazerac Bar, to its incomparably rich history, The Roosevelt is archetypical example of the type of property that characterizes the Waldorf Astoria brand.

“Today’s ceremony is another important milestone in Hilton’s continuing commitment to New Orleans and to the vibrant spirit of this community.”

Other presenters were New Orleans City Council president Jacqueline Brechtel Clarkson and principal owner Sam Friedman of Dimension Development.

Taking to the podium following a downtown motorcade in a 1941 yellow convertible Cadillac coupe once owned by the Vanderbilt family were “Louisiana Gov. Huey P. Long” and “U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt.” Each was portrayed by a local actor to salute the pair’s connections to the legendary hotel.

Long, a populist governor in the late 1920s and U.S. Senator in the early 1930s until his death in 1935, kept a suite at he hotel for much of his public life and was responsible for tales regarding the hotel that linger today. The name of the hotel, which opened in 1893 as the Grunewald, was changed to The Roosevelt in 1925 in honor of the former President, who also was a frequent guest and whose likeness, complete with spectacles and moustache, still marks one of the hotel’s historic entrances. The hotel bore that moniker until it was renamed the Fairmont in the mid-1960s.

Providing music for the rebirth of the hotel and of the city itself were the Rebirth Brass Band and pianist Ronnie Kole.

The grand hotel boasts 504 rooms, of which 135 are luxury suites, some named for celebrities who once visited the hotel. Other amenities include a comprehensive business center, private dining and suite butler service, an outdoor pool and courtyard, and a specialty gift shop.

The Blue Room also has been restored to its previous splendor and already is serving as a place for families and friends to enjoy good music and food and celebrate life’s special occasions. On Sunday mornings starting in October, the Blue Room will feature a grand brunch complete with delights such as mascarpone-stuffed French toast with house-made satsuma marmalade, boiled Gulf shrimp, a carving table featuring the finest roasted meats and much more.

Guests have the opportunity to enjoy a beverage in the Sazerac Bar and Restaurant, a Roosevelt landmark for decades. The Sazerac Bar serves its signature Sazerac beverage and Ramos Gin Fizz – both invented in New Orleans and made popular worldwide by The Roosevelt and by Long – among other delights. In addition to beverages that stimulate the palate, Sazerac patrons again enjoy the Art Deco-style murals by artist Paul Ninas.

The Roosevelt New Orleans also features nearly 60,000 square feet of meeting and event space, including three spectacular ballrooms and 23 distinctive meeting and event rooms that span two floors of the hotel.

To take advantage of any of the hotel’s offers, guests and visitors can call 1-800-WALDORF or visit For more information about booking any of the rooms, contact Mark Wilson at (504) 648-1200 or at

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New Orleans Hotel Reopens Four Years After Katrina

Posted on: July 29th, 2009 by admin No Comments

New Orleans (AP) – The massive lobby, with its ornate trim, glittering Italian crystal chandeliers and mosaic floors, looks much as it did when Louisiana’s Kingfish, Gov. Huey P. Long last strolled through. Some say a box full of kickbacks and shakedown money was tucked under his arm as he made his way to his regular suite in the 1930s.

The Roosevelt Hotel has finally reopened in downtown New Orleans four years after Hurricane Katrina. Thanks to a $145 million renovation, it’s making an opulent return to its heyday, when the likes of Long, a parade of Hollywood stars and the country’s movers and shakers held court there.

The hotel was built in 1893, but the grandest period was from the 1920s and ’30s, said general manager Tod Chambers. We wanted to restore it to that era.

The Roosevelt’s renaissance is also a milestone in the city’s recovery from the August 2005 storm. Now only one major hotel, the Hyatt, remains shuttered, along with an adjacent shopping center attached to the Louisiana Superdome. The hurricane flooded 80 percent of New Orleans, crippling its vital tourist industry, but the French Quarter suffered minimal damage, and many hotels, restaurants and attractions, like the Audubon Zoo and Aquarium, reopened within months. Only a few major tourist sites remain closed, including the heavily damaged Six Flags amusement park.

But Katrina left 10 feet of water in the Roosevelt’s basement, destroying mechanical equipment, while wind-driven rain inundated most guest floors. As other hotels returned, the Fairmont, as it was then known, remained boarded up. Then in August 2007, the Roosevelt was bought by Louisiana based Dimension Development for $19 million. Dimension then brought in Hilton to renovate it and operate it as part of the company’s upscale Waldorf-Astoria portfolio.

Hilton decided to reopen the property as a 504-room, 135-suite luxury hotel under the Roosevelt name. The hotel was originally called the Grunwald, but in 1923 it became the Roosevelt, in honor of President Theodore Roosevelt. It was during the hotel’s grandest era that Long, the governor of Louisiana from 1928 to 1932 and as a U.S. senator from 1932 to 1935, was a regular guest.

Historians say every state employee who received a job from Long was expected to contribute to his campaign fund, which was kept in a locked box. Without a base of wealthy political contributors, Long reasoned this was an appropriate source of funds for his political activities.

After Long’s assassination in September 1935, the box was believed to have been stolen by one of his associates. Although legend has it that the box accompanied him on trips to the Roosevelt, Chambers said it did not show up during the renovation. A replica of the box is planned for the lobby, however.

The reopening of the Roosevelt gives New Orleans about 34,000 hotel rooms, still shy of the 39,500 in use before Katrina struck, but plenty to serve major conventions and sporting events, said Mary Beth Romig, spokeswoman for the New Orleans Metropolitan Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Another important point is the ballroom space they bring, Romig said. That’s important for conventions that want everything in one location _ their delegates, meetings, displays and awards events.

The hotel has 60,000 square feet of meeting and event space, including the 20,000-square-foot Roosevelt Ballroom, 12,000-square-foot Crescent City Ballroom and the 7,000-square-foot Waldorf Astoria Ballroom.

As important, Romig said, is the return of the iconic Blue Room _ Louis Armstrong, Cab Calloway, Rosemary Clooney, Marlene Dietrich and Sonny and Cher all performed there.

The Blue Room, which reopens in late July with a concert by jazz clarinetist Pete Fountain, and the Sazerac Bar, have been Roosevelt landmarks for decades.

We went there after my high school prom, Romig said. There have been so many weddings there, so many special events. The hotel holds a very special place in local hearts.

A huge Christmas display, which fills the block-long lobby, is also going to return, complete with masses of trees, lights and choirs.

One of the delights of the restoration, Chambers said, was finding architectural details hidden by past renovations, including ornate plaster work under dropped ceilings and mosaic tile set in intricate patterns under heavy duty industrial blue carpeting.

And in the Sazerac Bar, the Art Deco murals by artist Paul Ninas are again on display.

Ninas, a pioneer modernist, moved to New Orleans in 1932 and painted the murals shortly thereafter.

One of the great delights of New Orleans is to get a Sazerac cocktail, which was invented in New Orleans, and gaze at those paintings, said William Fagaly, curator of African art at the New Orleans Museum of Art. Everybody in New Orleans is looking forward to doing that again.

Winding of the Clock Ceremony

Posted on: July 23rd, 2009 by admin No Comments

Stephen Perry, President and CEO of the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau, served as the celebrity clock winder at The Roosevelt New Orleans. The ceremony, held every Thursday at 4 p.m., bestows the honor of winding The Roosevelt’s historic French clock located in the lobby of the hotel to a local celebrity or key member of the community.



First Wedding Cake!

Posted on: July 21st, 2009 by admin No Comments

Executive pastry chef Robert Plouffe and his team stand by their masterpiece. The cake was constructed for the hotel’s first wedding party June 27. (Pictured from left to right: Santto Cheramie, Debbie Hyde and Chef Robert Plouffe)

Our Name Is Going Up in Lights

Posted on: May 28th, 2009 by admin No Comments


lightsGeneral Manager Tod Chambers watches as Kurt Weigle, CEO of the Downtown Development District, talks about the importance of The Roosevelt to New Orleans during The Roosevelt’s champagne lighting ceremony held May 20.

Featured in the Times-Picayune

Posted on: March 16th, 2009 by admin No Comments

The Roosevelt New Orleans was noted by Judy Walker in the Times-Picayune earlier this month.

Read the article.

John Besh And Alon Shaya Partner To Open Domenica

Posted on: March 9th, 2009 by admin 6 Comments

In New Orleans, the heart of a neighborhood often is defined by its corner restaurant or bar, a warm and inviting space where patrons are almost certain to know who will be dining at what time and table – a place so welcoming and with characters so congenial that diners feel they could slide in and join them at that table.

Take that neighborhood spot, increase the size, drop it into a world-renowned Waldorf Astoria hotel in downtown New Orleans, and you’ve got Domenica, a new look and idea for the Besh Restaurant Group. With Alon Shaya, former chef de cuisine at Besh Steak in New Orleans, as executive chef and partner with John Besh, Domenica will open in June 2009, serving an extensive menu of rustic Italian fare in a lively, open dining room seating about 120 at private or long communal tables.

Shaya is smitten to the point of obsession with the unpretentious country fare he encountered during his year-long sabbatical in Italy, and the dishes and setting of Domenica are smartly fitted to suit his passion.

“This is exactly the sort of food everyone likes to eat – simple, approachable and honest,” Shaya says, “prepared with skill and infinite care.”

The name “Domenica” means “Sunday” in Italian, and no matter what day of the week it is visitors will experience that warm and inviting Sunday-supper feeling.

Just as in the Besh Restaurant Group’s other restaurants – August, Besh Steak, Lüke and La Provence – the culinary emphasis will be on local, artisan-crafted products. At Domenica, the focus will be on traditional and regional Italian foods using many local Louisiana ingredients, as well as imported Italian artisan oils, cheese, flours and vinegars.

Occupying a spot in The Roosevelt New Orleans, the historic downtown hotel currently undergoing a $145-million historic restoration, Domenica becomes part of a rich example of New Orleans culture.

“By adding Domenica, we feel The Roosevelt New Orleans will reclaim its position as a premier dining location in a city that appreciates and expects fine dining,” says hotel general manager Tod Chambers.

At the corner of business-oriented Canal and Baronne streets, it will be perfectly situated to bring together neighbors with diverse interests but a shared taste for great food and camaraderie.

Entering Domenica, guests first encounter the raised bar area seating about 20. The bar itself is anchored by antique glass meat cases displaying Shaya’s estate-raised pork delicacies. To reach the private dining room, guests will be ushered right through the bustling kitchen for a fleeting, intimate look at the inner workings of an authentic Italian kitchen.

The main dining room, however, will be a cavernous, open space, packed with vintage character and dark masculine wood – for example, that of the sturdy, handmade tables weathered by the waters of the nearby Gulf of Mexico and salvaged from a barge submerged for more than 200 years. The long communal refectory tables will seat 10 to 12, with smaller parties at surrounding tables. The floors will be rustic heart pine, and the wooden tables will be topped not with tablecloths but with hearty placemats printed with the menu.

Shaya spent time northeast of Milan, traveling as much as he could to places like Venice, Tuscany and Trentino Alto Adige, tasting, watching and learning. He favored the small Italian towns and countryside establishments where proud artisans have created their products and, in turn, dishes under the same azure skies in the shade of the same ancient cedars using the same ingredients, techniques and equipment handed down through the generations.

“These were not Michelin-starred restaurants,” Shaya explains, “but what I came to understand was authentic Italian culture.”

Working in these tiny, family-run operations, Shaya has been privy to authentic, long-established recipes and techniques. Performing all tasks as a full-time line cook, he has had the opportunity to perfect the methods for perfectly crusted pizza, exquisitely handmade pastas, pillowy gnocchi, fire-roasted vegetables and creamy risotto. Luckily for New Orleans, he has brought all of his knowledge, experience and enthusiasm back with him, distinguishing his craft with an unmatched devotion and raising the bar of excellence for the region’s agricultural bounty.

The chef and his staff are not all that is awaiting Domenica’s opening: there is also a small stockpile of 1,500 pounds of salumi slowly curing, and prosciuttos and hams that have been aging for close to 12 months at the Besh Restaurant Group’s shared smoke house at La Provence in Lacombe, La. Shaya packed them away before his Italian adventure and is now refining his menu and preparing additional cured meats, hand-crafted Italian style cheeses, liqueurs and other time-intensive traditional Italian ingredients that cannot be hurried but which are integral to the authentic country Italian fare he learned “living over the store.”

Bread service sets the tone of each meal, with a basket of assorted house-made grissini, aromatic with fine sea salt and other seasonings. The fresh flavors of simple salads, pastas, and roasted meats braised with natural juices and a wide variety of antipasti using the freshest Louisiana produce will drive the menu. Each item will reflect the pure and unpretentious cuisine Shaya encountered in his travels, basic preparations with sometimes just two to three ingredients per dish. Pizzas will bake to blistered perfection in an authentic wood-burning oven. A portion of the menu will be dedicated to large platters heaped with savory fare brought to the table for all to share amid an atmosphere of excitement and anticipation, as food is typically presented on the day of rest among families in Italy.

“There’s a strong sense of community in rural Italy, just as there is here in New Orleans,” Shaya observes, “and this will be a place to rub elbows with neighbors – a loud, fun, boisterous and happy place.”

With custom-made beers and a wine list focusing on various regions of Italy, the libations at Domenica are ideally suited to the menu and to discriminating palates. Most bottles will be priced modestly under $35, with a special list of Barolos and Barbarescos on reserve. It also will be hard to resist Shaya’s own house-made nocino and limoncello, the latter of which started with Meyer lemons he recently picked in season in Louisiana’s countryside, Plaquemines Parish.

Domenica will be open seven days a week for lunch and dinner.

Meet and Mingle In Style – The Roosevelt New Orleans Welcomes All to its Grand Ballrooms and Meeting Space

Posted on: February 20th, 2009 by admin No Comments

If the walls of The Roosevelt New Orleans’ ballrooms and meeting spaces could talk, imagine the magnificent tales they would tell.

“Our ballrooms represent the history and grandeur of New Orleans but also present a location with unmatched service and attention to detail,” said Mark Wilson, marketing and sales director at The Roosevelt New Orleans. “We want our guests to indulge themselves, while also envisioning these spaces as luxurious locations for their special events.”

The Roosevelt New Orleans has undergone a $145-million restoration and will feature nearly 60,000 square feet of event and meeting space. This includes three spectacular ballrooms and 23 distinctive meeting and event rooms that span two floors of the hotel. Additionally, the hotel will offer 504 luxurious rooms and 135 elegant suites located steps from the French Quarter in downtown New Orleans.

The Huey P. Long Executive Boardroom, the hotel’s premiere meeting space, has been named for U.S. Senator and Louisiana Governor Huey Long, who used a suite at The Roosevelt as his headquarters in the 1930s and was well-known by all of the hotel’s staff. Stories abound from his tenure at the hotel, including the flamboyant politician’s greeting of the captain of a visiting German ship while dressed in his green silk pajamas. The boardroom features 570 square feet of space and 10-foot ceilings, as well as the newest telephone, audio/visual and touch-screen lighting control technology available.

The Roosevelt Ballroom, the most expansive and glamorous of the three ballrooms, boasts 20,124 square feet of space and a unique feature not previously available in the hotel’s largest meeting space: “air walls” that quickly and seamlessly convert the room into five smaller spaces to accommodate meetings of various sizes, from a small meeting to a lavish, romantic wedding reception that any bride would envy. Gorgeous chandeliers hang from the high ceilings, dripping with crystal and creating soft, shimmering light throughout the room, regardless of its dimension.

The Crescent City Ballroom features 12,204 square feet of space and numerous layout options, including a banquet configuration for up to 700 people, a schoolroom design with tables and chairs for 523 and a theatre style for up to 1,227.

The Waldorf Astoria Ballroom is the ideal location for anything from a romantic, intimate wedding reception to a small to mid-sized conference. The room features 6,776 square feet of space and 14-foot ceilings, as well as the same five-star service available to all guests of The Roosevelt New Orleans.

The Blue Room – legendary with locals, visitors and celebrities – will return to The Roosevelt New Orleans. In the golden era of supper clubs from the 1930s to the 1960s, the Blue Room played host to some of the best-known names in entertainment and big bands – including Tony Bennett, Louis Armstrong, Marlene Dietrich, and Sonny and Cher – as well as to elaborate floor shows. In addition to hosting Sunday brunch and regular entertainment, the Blue Room again will be available for the most special of special events, including weddings and carnival balls.

Roosevelt Ballroom

Roosevelt Ballroom

New Generations of New Orleanians to be Hosted in World-Famous Blue Room and Legendery Sazerac Bar at The Roosevelt New Orleans

Posted on: February 12th, 2009 by admin 13 Comments

NEW ORLEANS – Feb. 10, 2009 – Through more than a century of operation, The Roosevelt New Orleans served as the backdrop for many historic events and often made history in its own right. Key among plans to restore the property to its previous grandeur and appeal will be the reopening of the hotel’s famed Blue Room and legendary Sazerac Bar.

The smell of Eggs Benedict, musical notes from horns and pianos, and the sound of laughter from receptions soon will fill the air at The Roosevelt New Orleans’ world-renowned Blue Room, scheduled to reopen in the summer of 2009.

The Blue Room – legendary with locals, visitors and celebrities – also will return to the Sunday brunch circuit complete with delights such as mascarpone-stuffed French toast with house-made satsuma marmalade, boiled Gulf shrimp, a carving table featuring the finest roasted meats and much more.

Many big-band fans around the world will warmly recall turning to WWL radio at night and hearing the sounds of the Leon Kelner Orchestra, the house band, live from the Blue Room. With gleaming chandeliers and carefully restored architectural details, the renovated Blue Room once again will host live entertainment that appeals to all ages.

“The Blue Room is a household name not just in New Orleans but across the country and even around the globe,” said Mark Wilson, sales and marketing director at The Roosevelt New Orleans. “For decades, the Blue Room was a place for family and friends to enjoy good music and food and to celebrate life’s special occasions. We’re excited to reintroduce this pastime to new generations of New Orleanians and visitors.”

In the golden era of supper clubs from the 1930s to the 1960s, the Blue Room played host to some of the best-known names in entertainment and big bands – including Tony Bennett, Louis Armstrong, Marlene Dietrich, and Sonny and Cher – as well as to elaborate floor shows.

In addition to hosting Sunday brunch and frequent entertainment, the Blue Room again will be available for the most special of special events, including weddings and carnival balls. For more information about booking the Blue Room for events, contact Earl Lizana, director of catering, at (504) 648-1200 or at

The Sazerac Bar, a Roosevelt landmark for decades, again will serve its signature Sazerac cocktail and Ramos Gin Fizz – both invented in New Orleans and made popular worldwide by The Roosevelt – among other delights. In addition to beverages that stimulate the palate, patrons again will be able to enjoy the Art Deco-style murals by artist Paul Ninas and woodwork once held in awe by visitors.
When The Roosevelt New Orleans reopens, it will offer 504 guest accommodations, of which 135 will be suites, and 60,000 square feet of meeting and event space, including the spacious 20,000-square-foot Roosevelt Ballroom, 12,000-square-foot Crescent City Ballroom and the 7,000-square-foot Waldorf Astoria Ballroom, along with a total of 23 distinctive meeting and event rooms. For more information, visit

Memories of the hotel’s meeting rooms, the Blue Room and the Sazerac Bar can be logged at the hotel’s blog site:

Zagat Includes The Roosevelt New Orleans in its 2009 Guide

Posted on: January 20th, 2009 by admin No Comments

Zagat Survey released the results of its 2009 New Orleans travel survey recently. The guide, in its 20th edition, covers 704 of the city’s finest restaurants, nightspots, attractions and hotels, based on input from 3,877 local consumers.

‘The guide was created to help both visitors and locals rediscover the uniquely rich cultural and culinary assets of New Orleans,’ said Tim Zagat, Zagat Survey CEO. ‘In today’s economy, we’re anticipating an increase in domestic travel, and we encourage Americans to experience what this most distinctive city has to offer.’

In light of the economic storm battering the nation, tourists and locals alike appreciate the fact that New Orleans’ renowned restaurant industry offers one of the lowest average meal costs in the United States: $28.52 vs. the national average of $34.31. Despite the fact that 70% of respondents report spending more per meal compared to two years ago, 41% say they are eating out more often vs. only 17% who say they’re dining less often. New restaurants show the resurgent strength of the city’s dining scene.

Since 28% of surveyors in New Orleans named Creole and Cajun as their favorite cuisines, it is no surprise that Brigtsen’s (Contemp. Louisiana) won Top Food and Top Service, while Commander’s Palace (Creole) was voted Most Popular restaurant (as it has been every time it has been surveyed) and Top Decor to boot. Best Bets for a bite at top value are at Hansen’s Sno-Bliz, Angelo Brocato and Morning Call.

In the three years since Hurricane Katrina, 97% of surveyors report their favorite restaurants are back in business. The French Quarter’s arty Cafe Sbisa and Uptown’s iconic Charlie’s Steak House finally reopened this year to the delight of loyal locals, and Ruth’s Chris Steak House returned to the city proper in fancy new digs at Harrah’s.

Showing the wide variety of cuisine available in New Orleans, there are a wealth of winners by food category, including American, Barbeque, Chinese, Cajun and nearly every region of the world.

Zagat New Orleans 2009 ($12.95), edited by Karen Hudes, Sharon Litwin, Todd A. Price and Mimi Read, is available wherever books are sold, and online at