Meet Horst Pfeifer
A chef, a European Master Chef, is a big title that not everyone can put behind their name. Horst Pfeifer, talented and overly energetic, is the man behind the title. He started his culinary education at 15 years old, set his goals and at 28 years old, opened Bella Luna in the New Orleans French Quarter in October 1991.
A native of Germany, Chef Pfeifer and his wife, Karen, have worked together as a team since 1987. As Karen puts it though, Horst is the driving energy, the creative and motivator of their world. Although, as any smart person knows, no man can do it alone. Karen is an integral part of the business, supporting and working to make all Horst’s ideas become reality. “I am not the type to step to the ledge, but once the decision is made, I am totally excited and thrilled to take the challenge and see it through,” says Karen.
Chef Pfeifer seeks out a challenge, must stay busy and loves taking care of people. His charming personality is perfect for the hospitality industry. He thinks before you ask, provides before you need, and the package he offers the guest is complete. His family was not in the hospitality business, but it seems to be in his blood. As he says, “Owning a restaurant is not only about cooking, it is a very high maintenance business. You have to have a flexible and very open mind when serving the public and your employees.”
His next big challenge arrived in the form of a hurricane named KATRINA on August 29, 2005. Bella Luna was closed, but Horst didn’t let that get him down. Just 7 days after Katrina made landfall, Horst was busy preparing meals at the Foundry (his events venue in the New Orleans Warehouse District). He fed 1,500 people every day to help with the disaster relief effort. Later in November of 2005, as recovery and clean up were just getting underway in the city, Horst prepared 12,000 meals for the people of New Orleans for Thanksgiving. Since Bella Luna did not reopen, Horst was on the hunt for a new challenge. He never dreamed that he would go from fine dining in the French Quarter to “Thin Fried Catfish” in the swamp! A year and a half after Katrina, on April 2, 2007, Horst and Karen bought the iconic Middendorf’s. Since then, it has been a wild ride in Manchac!
The first year, the battle was just being the new guy in town. Taking over a restaurant that has been family owned for over 70 years is never easy. Year two, 2008 brought Hurricane Ike which flooded the restaurant. The original building’s dining rooms and kitchen had to be completely renovated. In 2009, the original building was reopened with the new “high and dry” kitchen built 6 feet off the ground to avoid losing it to another flood. Chef Pfeifer also added waterfront dining on the Deck in 2009 along with an additional dining room attached to the restaurant also “high and dry”. But wait, we’re not done with flooding, in 2012, Isaac brought the most damaging flood that Manchac had seen in decades. Both the kitchen and the new dining room were indeed “high and dry” but everything else was underwater. After cleaning out the freezers and walk in coolers and throwing away shrimp, crabs, flounder and catfish for the last time, the next building to be raised, this time 10 feet off the ground, was the dry storage, coolers and freezers. In 2016, the “high & dry” project was officially completed with the raising of the lower half of the restaurant. Middendorf’s is now fully “high & dry.”
“I wouldn’t be here without the support of the local community, my seafood providers, my vendors who have always been there and our very loyal customers,” says Chef Pfeifer. “And I am very excited to be working closely with the U.S. Catfish farmers to keep the Louisiana icon that is Middendorf’s alive and growing strong at over 80 years.”
In 2019, Pfeifer began a new chapter in Middendorf’s history — opening a second location in Slidell, LA. It officially opened on the restaurant’s 85th birthday, July 4, 2019.