Flying Around with Drew Brees—No Big Deal
“This is totally normal,” I joked to myself while following insanely popular Saints QB Drew Brees through the kitchen of a restaurant before walking into a wild mob scene inside. The restaurant, the New Orleans-themed Walk-On’s Bistreaux & Bar that Brees recently purchased a portion of, announced his visit on social media, and hundreds of super-enthusiasts answered the call. Following him into the dining room erupting in cheers and screams, I’ve never felt like such a big deal.
It’s hard to overstate Brees’ celebrity status in this town, after taking the Katrina-ravaged city to a Super Bowl victory in 2009, doing countless charitable and school appearances, opening several local Jimmy John’s locations and acting as New Orleans’ ambassador-in-chief throughout his career here in town.
Seeing it with my own eyes was an otherworldly experience that I’ll never forget, and the same goes for flying into town with Brees on a private jet.
From my day spent cruising in his wake and interviewing him for an upcoming feature story in Franchise Times, I can attest to his saintly image. He’s an extremely nice guy who is shockingly motivated to expand his restaurant empire, even with a busy day job, as he calls it.
He’s got big plans, aside from securing a second Saints Super Bowl victory, and he’s all about franchising. As reported by Nancy Weingartner in her 2014 cover story on Brees, he loves to drop by any of his Jimmy John’s locations and do a delivery or two. He claims he’s never NOT been recognized, which is no surprise.
Beyond expanding his new Walk-On’s chain, founded by the very personable Brandon Landry, he plans to add additional Jimmy John’s locations in and around New Orleans, and is even contemplating taking his sandwich obsession to other cities.
“Why put so much work in restaurants?” was my central question for Brees, thinking if I were him I’d be more interested in purchasing a chain of islands instead. His answer pointed to the heart of his generous character: he loves creating jobs, is genuinely passionate about his chosen brands, loves the family atmosphere of both, and enjoys getting into the nitty-gritty of corporate culture and P&L documents. He’s in it to win it, on and off the field.
My day spent with Brees was just one nugget of an interview-packed, fascinating trip to New Orleans where I met with the city’s leaders in the private and public sector, while also taking the time to experience the city with my own two feet (and taste buds). It’s a place that’s best experienced at good restaurants with equally fine company.