During a 50-year foodservice career Warren Leruth
has done many things.
Indeed, he has developed products, fostered innovation, operated a restaurant, written cookbooks, consulted for food organizations and been a taste specialist.
But that is not all he's
also has given generously to charity and come to the aid of friends.
been tapped by Nation's Restaurant News
as the first inductee into the MenuMasters Hall of Fame
"I love R&D and always have," Leruth
"It's creative and involves a lot of calculations and numbers, which I enjoy."
varied career the 69-year-old Leruth
has been first and foremost a food product developer.
"Research is a much calmer field than running a restaurant," he says, recalling his years as owner-operator of the famed LeRuth's Restaurant in Gretna on New Orleans' West Bank.
"With R&D you have your hand in food all the time but at a different level."
The new Hall of Famer continues to set a brisk pace through life.
well-equipped home kitchen in Pass Christian, Miss., he
develops and consults on products for Outback Steakhouse
, Boston Chicken, Brinker International, Burger King
and many other restaurant chains.
Always outspoken, Leruth
says: "One of the toughest challenges in foodservice today is the American hamburger.
There's light years of work to be done with the quality and grind of meat and the overall fat."
philosophy is that "whatever you eat must have a happy ending.
Back home, Leruth worked in the research kitchens of Proctor & Gamble; Chas.
Dennery & Co.
, a well-known Deep South bakery; and the Texas firm of Anderson-Clayton
While at Anderson-Clayton
developed something that's taken for granted today -- a pourable, non-separating dressing, which eventually became the Seven Seas line of salad dressings.
looks back on that breakthrough as one of his
top career accomplishments.
also credits Carter Harrer, Anderson-Clayton's
director of R&D, for teaching him how to formulate recipes.
In 1963 Leruth became the youngest member of the national chef fraternity, the Order of the Golden Toque.
Three years later he
opened LeRuth's Restaurant
With little advertising or fanfare the place soon was packed night after night.
For five consecutive years LeRuth's was honored with the prestigious Travel/Holiday Award.
dream realized, Leruth
sold the restaurant to his
sons in 1982 and retired.
"But I got bored," he
was spurred by a remarkable initiative, and the projects quickly mounted up.
He started the LeRuth Extract Co., making and marketing his Vanilla Bean Marinade and pure vanilla extract.
And as if that weren't enough, he
developed Chelsey's Frozen Custard, a soft ice-cream emporium.
has written two cookbooks and today continues his
work with the Chefs' Charity for Children, a foundation he
established two decades ago to benefit the St. Michael's Special School
The charity has raised more than $1.2 million, and Leruth
says, "I'm very proud of the New Orleans chefs who contribute their time and products each year to our fund-raising event.
Anthony Athanas, the famed Boston restaurateur and owner of Anthony's Pier
4 restaurant, recalls a time when Leruth
was there for him.
In 1978, when a blizzard sank the antique riverboat that Athanas had anchored alongside Pier 4 as a cocktail lounge, Leruth
was quick to help.
Making the journey with Leruth
for 43 years has been his
wife, the former Marie Rizzuto, a New Orleans native, like her
the cook in the family, and he
still enjoys the traditional New Orleans food that he
grew up on.
"You know, red beans and rice on Mondays," he
The birth of their children is the first thing that comes to Leruth's mind when he
is asked to review his
life and career.