After culinary school, the young chef joined Commander’s Palace in the New Orleans Garden District, gaining even further expertise in his field, but not quite knowing what to expect being on a team that was reopening the legendary restaurant, which had never closed in 70 years. Following Hurricane Katrina, Commander’s Palace shut down in 2005 to renovate.
“I completely excelled, thriving on the pressure and the intensity, and wanting to be that guy that had the big hat, looking up to them just in awe,” Hansell said. “I never knew that this world was there.”
He learned major lessons from then Commander’s Palace Executive Sous Chef Thomas Robey. “Like a sauce sometimes takes three of four days to make from the beginning,” Hansell pointed out. “It takes 15 people. It takes the guy cutting the carrots, and the guy peeling the onion, so on and so forth. It’s just amazing.”
A text from Commander’s Palace Chef Tory McPhail, away on a food and wine adventure in Israel, affirmed others’ sentiments: “Jeff is a great guy and always had such great potential, good attitude and natural skill.”
Hansell’s wife, Amy Hansell, is the general manager at VOH, and also has faith in her husband’s skill and ability to compete on a tough food scene. The two first met when Amy was working at Hot and Hot Fish Club, and Jeffrey had followed Robey to the Veranda and was working as a sous chef.
Hansell said that he and his wife are always looking for something new, and they even moved with their son to Aspen, Colo. for a short time beginning in 2010. Amy had always wanted to live in the mountains there. Hansell worked at the Little Nell Hotel and was in charge of morning operations.
Little Nell Hotel Executive Chef Robert McCormick said, “Part of my job is to find those people that have skills, have talent, No. 1, and No. 2, can kind of keep that level-headedness, be a part of a team and mesh with the rest of the people here.”
“Jeffrey’s braised collard greens had the ability to transcend me from the high Rockies to the deep South in a matter if seconds. [His food is] soulful, well-seasoned, and satisfying beyond all belief – not unlike the man himself,” he said.