When Kevin Kelly walked into the Orleans Hotel for the first time in 1995, he had a grand vision. The hotel was then a $10-per-day flophouse on New Orleans’s St. Charles Avenue, but Kevin, a Crescent City native who had never missed a Mardi Gras, envisioned a space where he could throw parties for the city’s signature parades.
Starting in 1996, when the building still had the Orleans Hotel dinge, Kevin began throwing costumed Mardi Gras parties. Guests that first year were skeptical as to how he might transform the building, which was originally built in 1828 as two side-by-side mansions, into something respectable.
After five years of intense construction, he had a luxurious beaux arts masterpiece with furniture and finishings from his world travels, including a staircase from a London castle that was torn down in the 1970s and a French chateau fireplace. Kevin, who owns and operates Houmas House Plantation and Gardens, describes his tastes as “formal but informal,” illustrated by his love of architectural flourishes, but when entertaining he keeps the food as informal as possible.
“I wanted to do Mardi Gras the way it used to be in the 1930s and 40s—everyone costumed. On my Friday night parties before Mardi Gras, if you’re going to come, you need to wear a costume. A costume or a tuxedo,” says Kevin.
The menu is always equally playful. Enjoy these party-friendly foods that are full of Cajun and Creole influences.