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Thursday, March 7, 2024

Mr. Hospitality


John Cariere Makes it Nice!

John Cariere is a vibrant man full of passion, ideas and varied interests. A third-generation Italian immigrant, he has been a staple in the restaurant business in Shreveport for almost 40 years and in the bed-and-breakfast business for 13 years. He is constantly thinking about his next adventure; in short, he is a Renaissance man.

For starters, let’s take Chef John’s passion for cooking. It began with his Armenian father, Andrew Cariere, and his Italian mother, Agnes Setian Cariere, who was the inspiration behind the iconic meatballs and sauce that helped define Monjuni’s, the Italian restaurant John co-founded in 1986.

“Mom taught me to make meatballs at the house on Dudley Drive in Shreveport. My parents always talked about having a restaurant for years. Mom always cooked for everyone, so our house was the house on the block where everybody came. So, you could say that my parents’ dream planted the seed.” Monjuni’s remains a go-to destination for authentic Italian food. At present, John and his niece have retained the 2151 Airline Dr. location in Bossier City, while the other two locations have been passed on to new owners. Monjuni’s distinictive products are also offered in the Ark-La-Tex region in many grocery retailers. In addition to Monjunis, John is also the former owner of two other successful restaurants he founded in Shreveport, Bella Fresca and Cotton Boll.

It doesn’t take long being in the same space as John Cariere to realize he is a people person. “I love meeting people; this business is very intentional,” he says. John’s business certainly includes his restaurants, but he is also alluding to the bed-and-breakfast industry, in which he has excelled for 13 years.

His residences at Fairfield Place, which include Fairfield Cottage and Fairfield Manor, are genuine labors of love. “People from out of town who have never visited Louisiana often stop here on their way to New Orleans, and they are given a taste of New Orleans right here in Shreveport,” he says. Both locations show John’s attention to a thousand details, from the New Orleans-style courtyard atmosphere with wide porches and balconies to the indoor and outdoor dining and exquisitely appointed rooms that boast amenities like luxurious feather beds and clawfoot tubs, along with the modern conveniences one might expect. If all this combined with the sound of wind chimes and birdsong nestled amongst a canopy of trees doesn’t convince you, John assures, “It really comes alive at night.”

Both sprawling residences are dripping with art, another one of John’s passions. He walks from room to room pointing out each treasure and sharing its history. “I love history and I love art,” he says, “Art makes me feel alive.” That is evident. With everything from striking oils to contemporary pieces, a stay at these residences is tantamount to a sleepover in a magnificent art gallery. Fairfield Manor is also a popular event destination for gatherings big and small. “We host family celebrations, weddings, funeral receptions, birthday parties, business events and more, with complete catering services provided. We have a variety of guests, many out-of-town people, as well as locals enjoying staycations, and during the week, a majority of businesspeople,” John explains. Whatever the occasion, guests are in for a treat.

When the COVID-19 pandemic wreaked havoc on local businesses, John found himself affected. “Whatever is happening in the world makes me want to go into the kitchen and create,” the longtime chef says. This led to his current venture, Fairfield Kitchen and Catering. John’s cooking at the bed-and-breakfast inspired guests to take food home with them – a literal taste of Shreveport. He started a pickup and delivery service that appeals to everyone, from people just needing to grab a weeknight dinner to those wanting to send a casserole to a loved one. The menu includes comfort food like lasagna, classics like Louisiana mini meat pies, and praline bacon, which needs no explanation. They even deliver to Dallas twice a month.

In addition to these ventures, John owns rental properties. He enjoys flipping houses and bringing them into the modern era, which plays into his love of architecture. “Fairfield Place was built in 1870,” he says, pointing out the historic marker nestled at the wrought iron gate. It is one of the oldest residences on Fairfield Ave., if not the oldest. John is not only an art connoisseur but also a longtime supporter of local arts organizations, including Shreveport Regional Arts Council, Meadows Museum and Robinson Film Center, and has done everything from donating art to serving as a board member.

Cariere is now offering prepped meals in addition to catering.

Cariere was a previous owner of the ever popular Cotton Boll Restaurant.

It is impossible to end a conversation with someone with such drive and determination without asking them what’s next. “I’m a creator. I always want to have a project, but I can’t run with every idea. I do have a dream of one day owning an inn in Italy,” he smiles. “I want my ideas to come to fruition, but I have a lot to do here still.” That includes taking care of his beloved dogs. Paris, a white giant poodle, and Greta, a dachshund, are gentle spirits who never seem to be far from their owner. “I would love to make a difference in the life of animals, leave that as a legacy. Animals are no longer an affordable option for everyone who has love to give them. I would love to have a program to address that, would love to see animals in every nursing home, with a vet on staff, so everyone - the dogs and the residents - has the benefit of such love."

John at takes Fairfield a moment Bed to relax with and Breakfast. Photo by Bill D’Luhy

John Cariere's life to date has been a whirlwind of service and deep dives into people pleasing. He recently celebrated his birthday with friends at the Shreveport Country Club and brought home an elaborate spray of flowers as a reminder of those who cherish him. He is modest when asked about his many endeavors and the life he continues to live to the fullest. His motto is "I'm complicated."

For more information about Monjuni's in Bossier City, visit monjunisbossier.com or Monjuni's of Bossier City on Facebook or call 318-629-44447. For information on reservations and/or event planning at Fairfield Place and Fairfield Manor or details about Fairfield Kitchen and Catering's delivery and pickup food offerings, visit stayfairfield.com or call 318-848-7776. For whatever adventures are next on the horizon for the endlessly creative Chef John Cariere, stay tuned.


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