Barrow’s Catfish restaurant owners win $10,000 Food Network competition

Barrow's Catfish is run by two generations, including Destyn Johnson (far left) and Kenneth Johnson III (far right) and their parents Kenneth Johnson Jr. and Deirdre Barrow Johnson. Advocate staff photo by Ian McNulty

The family behind Barrow’s Catfish restaurant on Earhart Boulevard came out on top of Food Network’s newest culinary competition "Family Restaurant Rival" on Saturday night (Sept. 21). The payoff was ten grand and national exposure for the New Orleans neighborhood seafood spot.

In the first round, third-generation restaurant owner Deirdre Barrow Johnson, husband Kenneth Johnson Jr. and daughter Destyn Johnson bested their rivals by re-imagining their signature fried catfish in taco form. In the next round, the trio was taken aback when they had to compose a three-course dinner based on vanilla ice cream. But the family prevailed, producing crab cakes with ice cream sauce, ice cream-flavored creole chicken breast and asparagus, and a rum milk shake with almonds and bananas.

“Now everybody’s calling, because they want a milk shake,” said Deirdre, laughing.

The catfish at Barrow's Catfish on Earhart Boulevard is based on a family recipe that goes back to Barrow's Shady Inn, a pre-Katrina restaurant in Hollygrove. Staff photo by Ian McNulty

Deirdre said she’s a long-time Food Network fan and was thrilled to travel to the Los Angeles set in May to record the show. “Just to be there was a great opportunity,” she said.

The competition, Deirdre said, was tough and the challenges completely unexpected. “We didn’t know anything before the start and it wasn’t a walk in the park at all,” she said.

Barrow’s Shady Inn restaurant was a Hollygrove landmark from 1943 until Hurricane Katrina. Deirdre and family reopened in a nearby location in July 2018. She said that even before the Food Network victory, the family had planned to expand to other locations on the West Bank, the Central Business district and possibly out-of-state. But the television triumph certainly bolstered their confidence.

Due to increased traffic, Deirdre said they’ve increased Barrow’s hours to include Sundays from noon to 6 p.m. She said the restaurant may add the catfish tacos they created during the show to the menu.


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