October 13, 2011
Christopher Kyte, President
We are committed to making certain that not only is the American Queen Steamboat Company
experience as authentic as possible, but also that it has a healthy dose of today’s features which make a USA river cruise
so enjoyable. For the cabin class passengers on the old steamboats, dining was the centerpiece of their time aboard and the expectation was that the “groaning board” would be laden with all manner of game, beef, fish and fowl. Of course, not all of the dishes from the 1850s would suit today’s palate. We fully intend to steer clear of such “delicacies” as fricasseed kidneys, spiced pig’s head and boiled squirrel!
To that end, we have engaged Chef Regina Charboneau to join the executive team of the American Queen
as Chef de Cuisine. The American Queen will offer her first Mississippi River cruise
in April of 2012.
Chef Regina Charboneau (far right), at a recent American Queen Steamboat Company event in Houston with (from left to right)
Chief Executive Jeff Krida, Chairman John Waggoner and
President Christopher Kyte.
Chef Regina's vision for the American Queen
is to re-create many American Classics using the best ingredients each season and location has to offer while creating some new dishes that become synonymous with the American Queen
. The Mississippi river region offers a plethora of ingredients to work with - sustainable fish and seafood, farm raised quail, free-range chickens, artisan cheeses, wild pecans, wild honey, wild rice, sweet corn, stone ground corn meals and grits as well as an abundance of citrus and vegetables.
“The key is to re-create without totally re-inventing a classic; I want to hold on to the core of what has made a dish an American Classic. Some dishes beg for a modern twist and some are best prepared the way they were meant to originally be prepared with the best ingredients available,” she once told me.
Chef Regina, a native of Natchez, Mississippi has always said she has Mississippi River water running through her veins and no matter where she travels, she always wants to come home to Natchez. She often has been quoted as saying “I spent my first 23 years trying to get away from Natchez and spent the next 23 trying to get home again.”
Regina never questioned what she wanted to do with her life - her passion was cooking. She had a good foundation with her father coming from a long line of fine Louisiana cooks and her mother from a long line of Mississippi hostesses. Luckily for Regina, her mother married a good cook because she although she was a charming hostess, the kitchen was not her forte. Being a seventh generation Natchezian where entertaining is second nature made Regina a natural in the hospitality business. She received the best of both worlds through her parents - a father who could cook and mother who could set a beautiful table.
After attending several Southern Universities, she found herself in, of all places, Alaska, to earn money in the late 70s to go to cooking school in Paris by being a “camp cook” in the bush of Alaska. After Paris, Regina returned to Alaska and became the first woman hired by Club Corporation of America and took the position of Executive Chef at the Tower Club in Anchorage, Alaska.
After gaining more experience, Regina decided to join the American food scene in San Francisco of the early 80s. Regina opened her San Francisco restaurant, Regina's, at the Regis in the heart of the city's theater district. She served award-winning contemporary southern cuisine into the mid 90s. Regina's was a favorite late night spot for theater-goers as well as directors, musicians and actors such as Tim Curry, Shirley MacLaine, Danny Glover, Patti Labelle, Lily Tomlin and many more. Regina became equally known for her genuine Southern hospitality.
In 1995, Regina created and opened the first Biscuits & Blues nightclub in San Francisco, which was awarded a WC Handy award for being the Best Blues Club in America. Regina also opened Chi Chi Beignet in San Francisco, a martini bar, as well as Regina’s Sonoma in California’s wine country. During this time Regina was the Chef de Cuisine for Uncommon Journeys’ two vintage rail cars - The Los Angeles and The Houston. Regina has been featured in several magazines, and has appeared on the NBC Today show as well as many NBC, ABC and CBS affiliates.
In mid 2000, Regina came full-circle and returned to her hometown of Natchez to be a part of the prestigious Monmouth Plantation. Later, Regina and her husband then purchased and restored historic Twin Oaks Plantation, dating from 1832, which is where they currently reside. Twin Oaks has six guest rooms located in an original dependency on the property and has become one of the most popular guesthouses in Natchez and Regina hosts Southern Cooking Classes several times each year at Twin Oaks.
As well as being a regular guest chef on the P. Allen Smith Gardens television show, Regina has been a Southern Food writer for The Atlantic web site for the past two years and received an award from the Monterey Bay Aquarium for being an advocate of sustainable seafood.
I think you would agree with me that we couldn’t have picked a more skilled, more experienced or more passionate chef than Regina Charboneau as our Chef de Cuisine. Look for her take on southern dishes such as Shrimp Creole, Southern Pot Roast with Horseradish Mashed Potatoes, Fig and Cranberry Confiture and Grilled Corn and Squash Quesadillas. While Regina and the American Queen Steamboat Company
will keep tradition alive (albeit with a modern twist), we promise you won’t find any boiled squirrel. Some traditions are best left for the history books!