On The Table: Head Chef Brad McLaren – Willie John’s Big Easy

Famous for a cuisine entirely its own, New Orleans has become one of the culinary capitals of North America.

This multi-cultural city has created an original and flavour rich cuisine that perfectly marries and reflects its Cajun, Creole and French roots.

Located in the Q Niagara Falls downtown district is Willie John’s Big Easy. For two years, this four thousand square foot open space restaurant and entertainment establishment has honoured New Orleans culture; introducing both locals and tourists alike to the rich Cajun flare and spirit of the southern city’s food and way of life.

This unique establishment was brought to life by co-owners Bill Delingat and John Pickering. Both Delingat and Pickering share not only a passion for music, but also an extensive background in the entertainment industry.

Bringing the flavours to life for Niagara is Chef Brad McLaren. Chef McLaren has helped establish restaurants from coast to coast – working in a variety of kitchens across the country.

McLaren has added his own personal touch to the menu which includes: spicy gumbo filled with shrimp, meat and shell fish, traditionally spiced jambalayas with a side of homemade cornbread and tapas of Spanish shrimps, pepper beef and corn ball and crab cakes. Along with the staple menu items, Willie John’s also features a revolving menu of exotic specials and seasonal surprises.

But the New Orleans vibe does not end with the menu.

“The ambience of the venue features different areas honoring ‘N’awlins’ with street signs honouring different areas [of New Orleans],” says co-owner Bill Delingat.

“The raised seating area is known as the French Quarter, the dance floor is the Congo Square, the bar area is Treme and Blues Bayou and the back seating area is Storyville.”

Niagara music lovers can simultaneously rejoice with the foodies; Willie John’s has created a platform to host live music by some of Canada’s up and coming musicians and zydeco bands – thanks to co-owner John Pickering.

Delingat said he emerged onto the scene by “bringing a new wave to Canada” when he managed Klub Dominoe – Toronto’s original post-punk and new-wave dance club which featured in house DJ Chris Shepherd [today, Shepherd is one of North America’s top DJs].

Delingat later went on to open the massive Spectrum Nightclub in Toronto working with international promoters the Gary’s and CPI.

Owner of Rythmn Ranch Recording Studios, Pickering said through his website that for over a decade he has “found a home with a unique creative environment that has led to the formation of a family of artists, writers and producers with the shared goal of making great music the old fashioned way – by playing it.”

Pickering as well is said to be doing a live YouTube station straight from Willie John’s stage.

“That will also promote an educational section to help up and coming artists learn the ropes by some of Canada’s best talents,” said Delingat.

“We plan to present many of these artists ‘Live on Stage’,” said Delingat. “Bringing the musical magic of Toronto to Niagara Falls.”

Willie John’s Big Easy is currently open Friday and Saturday. The owners said they will be adding additional hours soon – expecting to be open up to six days of the week during the summer season.

Learn more about Willie John’s Big Easy by visiting their website!

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