New Orleans Restaurateur Johnny Blancher — With a Lenten Recipe for Oysters Bleu

‘Food and faith and good times have been the focal point of our lives,’ he says

Johnny Blancher with his Oysters Bleu
Johnny Blancher with his Oysters Bleu (photo: Courtesy Photos)

Born in New Orleans and now a resident of both New Orleans and Lafayette, Louisiana, Johnny Blancher is a successful businessman and restaurateur who calls his Catholic faith the “centerpiece” of his life.

Growing up, he said “we were a family who went to Mass every Sunday. When we were young, my parents visited Medjugorje separately. My dad went because Mom told him to, and he believed something was going on there. Though nothing miraculous happened, Dad made a request because he felt he needed to do something for the whole family. He made a petition and a week after he came back, the Knights of Columbus asked him if he wanted to buy a bowling alley.”

After much prayer, Blancher’s father made a low offer to the Knights, and he took it over on All Saints’ Day in 1988. That set the youngster forward on a whole different life pathway. When Blancher was just 12, his dad put him to work fixing bowling machines, selling bowling shoes, tending bars and working as a short-order cook.

That shaped Johnny’s life because as an adult, he now oversees not one but two bowling alleys — Rock N’ Bowl and Ye Olde College Inn restaurant in New Orleans. He said taking over the bowling alley was a great leap of faith.

“As a family, we painted the walls Blessed Mother Blue and put a picture of the Blessed Mother and Sacred Heart of Jesus on the walls too.”

Of course, his life-long love for food and cooking also shaped his future. Every Sunday after Mass he and his family went to his grandmother’s house in Bucktown, Louisiana.

“She was one heck of a cook and really talented,” Blancher said. “She is still cooking at 92.  She took to the New Orleans Creole influence. and my mom grew up in Cajun country … and I grew up in the kitchen with them. … And having meals together was the focal point of life, and we ate all day long after Mass.”

After attending college with a degree in business, Blancher said his role in life changed.

“I eventually gravitated to the kitchen,” he said, soon after buying New Orleans restaurant icon Ye Olde College Inn. He did a lot of cooking in the beginning but with three enterprises to maintain, he needed kitchen help.

“Now, I have a Catholic chef,” he said, “a Cuban Catholic from New Orleans and his family have been lifelong New Orleans residents. He really runs the show now with a great team and my brother-in-law Jimmy Hankins. I focus on our Lafayette Rock N’ Bowl and provide guidance as needed in New Orleans.”

In his family, “food and faith and good times have been the focal point of our lives,” he said.

“At the New Orleans restaurant, we do fish three different ways every day. We do steak and a lamb shank when available. We do a unique crawfish étouffée. We call it Crawfish Delacroix, which is Louisiana white rice topped with broiled fish of the day and smothered in Crawfish Étouffée. … My favorite dish, when we can get soft shell crabs, we serve them on a bed of risotto and fry the soft shell so the claws stand up in the air. … It is a diverse menu, and we primarily serve locals, though tourists do find us.”


Recipe: Oysters Bleu

Serves 2 to 3


  • 8 ounces olive oil
  • 8 ounces bleu cheese crumbles
  • 12 ounces corn flour
  • 1 ounce Creole seasoning
  • 1 cup shredded lettuce (iceberg or romaine)
  • 4 slices red onion rounds (pick your favorite 4 to 6 rings)
  • 7 Louisiana oysters (any Gulf Coast oyster will do)


In a mixing bowl, stir in equal parts olive oil and bleu cheese crumbles. It’s good to let it marinate in the refrigerator overnight. Pre-heat frying oil, lard, tallow or your favorite tasty fat to 350 degrees in a vessel deep enough to submerge your oysters. It’s important to have enough oil to completely cover the oysters. Season corn flour with Creole seasoning to taste. Dredge 7 Louisiana oysters through the corn flour, then deep-fry until golden. Remove from oil and place on a towel. On a platter, spread shredded lettuce and place red onion rounds atop the lettuce. Then lay the 7 perfectly fried Louisiana oysters across the onions. Finally, drizzle the bleu cheese oil over the oysters. Bon Appetit!