The idea of Lula Restaurant-Distillery was collaborated between Jess Bourgeois and Bear Caffery who share a passion for outstanding food paired with finely crafted cocktails.
The two friends and business partners met in 2009 when Jess tagged along with mutual friends on a vacation to visit Bear. At that time, Bear was living in Invercargill, New Zealand. The random introduction turned into an unforgettable two-week experience filled with food, drinks and adventure. Bear moved back to the states and eventually settled in Louisiana in 2009. That’s when the Lula Restaurant-Distillery concept really began to take shape.
Jess and Bear set their sites on learning everything they could about the distillation process completing an apprentice course in Washington state led by one of the most successful micro-distilleries in the country. Bear also completed a distillation course at Cornell University in New York through their Food Science Department and a Rum Production Course at Moonshine University in Kentucky. They learned the ins and outs of distillation including the common pitfalls of building and operating a successful distillery.
Learning how to operate a distillery that produces three spirit varieties wasn’t the only hurdle to making Lula happen—the idea of uniting a full-service restaurant with a micro-distillery proved to be a bit more challenging. From local zoning to federal permitting, the needed approvals have taken countless hours. Those needed approvals even led Jess and Bear in the spring of 2015 to the Louisiana State Capitol to seek approval through House Bill 233 to allow the concept to exist. Luckily, with the support of many, the bill passed and was signed into law in the summer of 2015 allowing Lula to exist and paving the way for future restaurant-distillery concepts in the state.
The road hasn’t been easy in The Big Easy; but, Jess, Bear and the Lula team are thrilled to be here and excited to make sure your Lula experience is unforgettable.
To all of our friends and family, thank you for your support throughout the years. We look forward to enjoying some great food and a cocktail or two with you! Cheers to new adventure in New Orleans!
Jess Bourgeois, a native of Donaldsonville, LA, became interested in cooking as a child watching his grandmother and mother in the kitchen. He then developed his cooking skills in high volume restaurant environments for more than 15 years. He started his restaurant career in Baton Rouge as a bus boy, waiter and bartender. After graduating from Louisiana State University with a B.S. degree in Food Science/Nutrition he earned an Associates Degree from Le Cordon Bleu Culinary Academy in Austin, TX. He then moved to New Orleans to work in the kitchen at Commander’s Palace. Following Hurricane Katrina, Jess relocated to Birmingham, AL to work as an Executive Chef and General Manager of a high-volume privately owned restaurant group for nearly 10 years. Jess moved home to Louisiana in 2013 and began making plans for Lula.
Bear Caffery’s interest in Lula Restaurant-Distillery is born on his passion for distilling and brewing. Prior to the Lula concept, Bear’s brewing and distilling interests have been personal interests; however, he has obtained an extensive knowledge and hands on experience in both arenas. He has brewed multiple all grain beers and is well versed in the processes necessary to take Lula Spirits from raw ingredients to the bottle.
Bear studied biology and chemistry at Louisiana Tech University in Ruston. Prior to moving to New Zealand, he spent much of his spare time brewing. While in New Zealand, Bear discovered his allergy to gluten which pushed him away from brewing and put him on a path to honing his interest in the distillation process. By happenstance, New Zealand was the perfect place to do just that. In New Zealand, home distilling is legal and the perfect platform for learning how it’s done. A visit back to the states, a few cocktails later with Jess and mutual friends and the dream of making Lula a reality began to take shape.