Cristiano Italian Ristorante, Houma
“The day after my 15th birthday, a friend of mine talked me into taking a job as a dishwasher,” says Executive Chef Lindsay Mason. “But at the time, I never knew this would be my life.”
Lindsay experienced different styles of Louisiana cooking at a young age in Thibodaux. “One of my grandmothers was a traditional Cajun cook,” he says. “And the other was an old New Orleans Jewish lady, so their cooking styles were totally different.”
Through his dishwashing job at Flanagan’s Creative Food and Drink in Thibodaux, Lindsay spent several years honing his skills with fresh ingredients, as well as fusing traditional and contemporary techniques.
“By the time I’d graduated high school, I had already spent three and a half years in the kitchen. I started culinary school, but as I moved up in the restaurants, it got harder to make both work.”
Throughout his career, he has stayed in south Louisiana; he’s cooked at Fremin’s in Thibodaux and Houma’s Café Milano, and more recently The Lunch Box—a food truck that travels around Terrebonne and Lafourche parishes. Lindsay has even spent some time on the open water: “I tried a bit of off shore cooking, but it wasn’t for me. I like cooking on solid ground.”
At Houma’s Cristiano Ristorante, Lindsay uses fresh, local Louisiana seafood and produce to create a menu of traditional Italian dishes, as well as seasonal options, all of which are supplemented by the restaurant’s organic herb garden. A few standout dishes include Chargrilled Oysters with Smoky Red Pepper Garlic Butter, Braised Beef Cheeks with Horseradish Foam, and Saltimbocca (prosciutto-wrapped veal scaloppini with sage and fontina).
“Because this job is so demanding, I try to keep a good balance,” he says. When he isn’t in the kitchen, Lindsay spends as much time as he can with his wife and two children. “When they go to sleep, I stay up and work on whatever I can for the restaurant.