Jazz fest food vendor Fireman Mike to open new restaurant in Lakeview’s Pizza Nola | Food/Restaurants
Mike Gowland, known to countless Jazz Fest fans and cooking TV followers as Fireman Mike, is taking over the Lakeview location of Pizza Nola.
The firefighter-turned-chef confirmed today that he will open his own restaurant at 141 W. Harrison Ave. in the coming weeks. Pizza Nola is slated to close on Sunday, March 11.
The new restaurant will also have pizza, but also a wider menu of the deep down Louisiana-style flavors from Gowland’s repertoire.
A name is still in the works for Gowland’s new restaurant, though its direction is clear and has been taking shape in his mind for years.
“Everything we do with food is about our family, we share everything as a family, we cook together, I want our restaurant to reflect that,” said Gowland.
Gowland started his career as a New Orleans firefighter but evolved into a well-known fixture of the New Orleans food and festival scene.
He and his family have run their Fireman Mike’s Kitchen booth at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival since 2001, serving signature dishes like alligator sauce piquante, shrimp and grits and shrimp, sausage and okra gumbo.
These dishes will show up as small plates at his new Lakeview restaurant, and their flavors will also be worked into some of its specialty pizza.
“You’ll be able to get alligator sauce piquante, but we’ll also use it on a pizza with goat cheese and caramelized onion,” Gowland said, his voice revealing his excitement by the prospects of the new venture.
“We’re going to do this together, as a family,” he said. “The other part of it is that I’ve always wanted to do more for my community, and this is going to give me a place to do that.”
Gowland, while still working in the firehouse, gained some national attention as a chef by winning a 2012 edition of the Food Network show Chopped, beating out professional chefs in the running. He excelled on other food shows too, including Destination America’s Deep Fried Masters, where his deep-fried po-boy stole the show.
He retired from the fire department that same year as a captain with 22 years under his belt and has been developing his food business with his family.
They plan to continue running their Jazz Fest duties, which also includes a stand in the Kids Area for child-friendly snacks.
Pizza Nola founder Will Samuels announced in February that his restaurant would close after more than seven years in business. The neighborhood pizzeria had developed a dual identity during Carnival season as a king cake hub, specifically for the cakes made by Dong Phuong bakery in New Orleans East.
In a release about Fireman Mike’s plans for the restaurant, Samuels asserted that despite his restaurant closing “he will have a ‘major presence’ with king cakes during Carnival, 2019.”
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Follow Ian McNulty on Twitter, @IanMcNultyNOLA.