Stanley is the brainchild of Chef Scott Boswell. Since opening his flagship fine-dining restaurant, Stella!, in 2001, he entertained the idea of a more casual counterpart. Even before he had a location, Chef Boswell imagined a menu—a menu of traditional American comfort food with a twist. Though construction had not yet begun on Stanley, Chef Boswell set his plan in motion. Anticipating what he believed would be the best hamburger ever, he instructed his staff to save and grind all excess tenderloin steaks at Stella. In preparation for the opening of Stanley, Stella’s staff ground, portioned, and tested numerous incarnations of Chef Boswell’s now popular burger. One day they found the perfect blend and The Stanley Burger was born. With burger in hand, the push was on. Chef Boswell could hardly wait to unveil Stanley to New Orleans.
One week prior to Katrina pummeling New Orleans, Stella had begun a major renovation. However, after August 28th, 2005, all that remained of Stella was a vacant, demolished, and unrecognizable hole in the wall. With Stella’s staff scattered across the country, and no restaurant to reopen, the only option was—obviously—open Stanley!
With only a handful of employees, his mom, her charcoal grill and a coveted police-issued hat—which allowed him access into and out of the city—Chef Boswell began serving burgers even before New Orleans was open for public re-entry. Since Stanley was the first restaurant in the city to offer made-to-order food, it was an instant hit. Serving more than five hundred burgers a day to emergency workers and media was Stanley’s way of supporting the city’s valiant attempt to nurse itself back to life. With neither utilities nor a constant source of supplies, it was hard to keep up—but Chef Boswell and his team persisted non-stop, for fourteen long days and nights. After two weeks passed, it was time to stop, reevaluate the situation, bring everything up to code and open for real.