Versailles Restaurant was an emblem of its era in New Orleans fine dining, a grand restaurant for Continental cuisine with all the bells and whistles. That era is long gone and the restaurant has been closed for decades. But for one night, the chef behind Versailles will channel some of the spirit of the old place and his later ventures for a special dinner, albeit in a more casual setting.
Gunter Preuss, the German-born, classically-trained chef, is coming out of retirement to host the dinner as a benefit for Deutsches Haus.
The German cultural club missed its main fundraiser last year when its local version of Oktoberfest was called off. The chef wants to help the group get through to the next edition this fall.
On Aug. 14, Preuss and the Deutsches Haus culinary team will present a 5-course wine dinner with a cocktail reception to begin and live performances from Opera Festa Singers.
“They have a very nice crew of people there, and they cook very, very well,” Pruess said of Deutsches Haus. “It’s a way to get back to what I love.”
Versailles Restaurant first opened in 1972 in the ground floor of The Carol, the upscale condominium complex in the strikingly mid-century modern building at St. Charles and Jackson avenues. It embodied the style of the time for top-flight fine dining, before the rise of the modern bistro where ambitious chefs and contemporary cuisine found a more casual setting.
Preuss, a native of Breslau (now the Polish city of Wroclaw), came to the project with credentials from formal European culinary training. He had previously been chef at the Sazerac Restaurant in what was then the Fairmont Hotel (now the Roosevelt Hotel). He ran the restaurant together with his wife, Evelyn Preuss, a native of Berlin.
Versailles was known for dishes like bouillabaisse, duck a la Flamande and escargot served in a hollowed length of bread. The restaurant’s bar, the Sun King Lounge, was a popular Uptown drinking den in its own right.
By the time Versailles closed in 1985, the couple had already become part owners of the historic French Quarter restaurant Broussard’s, and they would become full owners in 1993.
Twenty years later, in 2013, they sold Broussard’s to Creole Cuisine Restaurant Concepts, which is marking Broussard’s centennial this year (a year later than planned due to pandemic disruptions in 2020).
Gunter Preuss went on to work as a chef in residence for the Dickie Brennan & Co. restaurant group, serving in a training and mentoring capacity, and he later retired fully from the business.
“I still cook,” he said, “but now just for my wife.”
For the Deutsches Haus dinner, Preuss will start with a cocktail reception with gravlax, terrines and smoked pork belly. The dinner features vol-au-vent with shrimp and fish quenelles, beet and celeriac salad, rouladen (the German stuffed beef dish), and crepes Suzette, with wine pairings through the dinner.
For tickets and more information, see deutscheshaus.org/tickets/.
Wine dinner with Gunter Preuss
1700 Moss St., (504) 522-8014
Aug. 14, at 6 p.m.
Tickets are $125