Chef Alex Harrell of Sylvain - Biography

New Orleans, LA

June 2012

Hailing from southeastern Alabama, Chef Alex Harrell’s earliest childhood memories are spending summers on the Gulf Coast and learning how to cook and bake with his father. His first job was at a small seafood restaurant on the beach and he continued to work in restaurants throughout college. It wasn’t until after he graduated with a science and biology degree that Harrell realized he could make a career as a chef and do what he loves.

Harrell moved to New Orleans in 1998 and began working as a pantry cook at Bayona for Chef Susan Spicer, where he learned proper technical skills. From there, he was introduced to Gerard Maras in 2000, where he worked his way from lunch line cook at Gerard’s Downtown to sous chef at Ralph’s on the Park and Table One. He credits both chefs for inspiring him to continue to learn to become a better cook and to study the importance of technique, precision, and the use of only the freshest ingredients.

In 2010, Harrell was chosen by owners Sean McCusker and Robert LeBlanc to head the kitchen at Sylvain, the celebrated new restaurant in the French Quarter where Harrell now crafts simple but skilled contemporary American dishes. Brett Anderson, The Times-Picayune’s food critic, stated that Sylvain’s strength is in the “careful execution of a thoughtful roster of relatively simple dishes.” Zozo George, food critic for New Orleans Living, praised Harrell’s style as a reflection of the chef’s personality: “clever, laid-back and very, very easy to get along with.”

Harrell has also been featured on’s Eatocracy,, and Sylvain was included in’s New Orleans “Heat Map” of the top restaurants in the city.