NOLA on 13 caters to the 12,000 people who work in the Indiana Michigan Power Center building.
One phone call can change the trajectory of a person’s career. Just ask John Maxwell, owner of NOLA on 13
and the creative brains behind the fan-favorite Ragin’ Cajun food truck and restaurant.
Not long ago Maxwell was unsure about what lie ahead for him professionally. He had recently closed his Ragin' Cajun Columbia City location and was looking to give up the food truck side of the business, too. Then, that all changed.
“The phone rang, and it was Joe Ceruti (director of sales at Ceruti's Catering),” he says. “He wanted to move on (from their downtown location at City View Cafe/Event Center
), and I ended up buying Ceruti's out of their lease."
Head up to the 13th floor of one of the tallest buildings in Fort Wayne—the Indiana Michigan Power Center
at 110 E. Washington Blvd.—and you’ll observe Maxwell in action. Right now, he’s in the soft opening phase of the restaurant. That means he’s busy making the space his own, while crafting plans for NOLA on 13's menu and future events.
NOLA on 13 serves classic New Orleans pastries, like beignets.
His vision is to bring the freshness and authenticity of New Orleans fare to downtown Fort Wayne. This cuisine is what he calls “the real deal”—what he grew up eating while living in Louisiana. That means everything from fresh seafood to beignets made in-house.
NOLA on 13 is in good company with its culinary ambitions downtown. Bourbon Street Hideaway
on Columbia Street has been serving up Cajun and Creole fare for some time. Still, Maxwell brings his own special touch to the scene.
“I have a passion for what I do,” he says. “I put my heart and soul into every dish. I truly believe we’re only as good as the last dish that comes out of the kitchen. That’s what we focus on.”
John Maxwell has earned a reputation for his New Orleans-inspired fare.
In talking to him, it’s clear there’s no shortage of enthusiasm about his food. He’s also equally as humble as he is intense. For example, he’s quick to acknowledge the chefs and restaurant owners who inspired him throughout his career, to become what he is today. In addition to colleagues in the business, he reveres “old school chefs,” like Julia Child.
The view of the downtown Fort Wayne skyline from NOLA on 13's windows.
After nearly 50 decades in the food business, he says he’s learned a lot and would love to hand over the reins to someone else. In the meantime, he guides the restaurant’s artistic direction and menu development. Currently, they serve breakfast and lunch, but the “next thing,” he says, will be Sunday brunch high above the downtown skyline.
On the business side of things, Maxwell says he’d like to leverage the use of the building's 2nd floor, as well, which is part of his lease. This floor has an auditorium, private meeting space, lobby, and other amenities he would like to market as an event venue.
2019 is already shaping up to be a busy one for him, it seems.
“I think it’s going to be a lot of fun,” he says.
NOLA on 13 is open 7 a.m.-2 p.m. Monday through Friday. Follow them on Facebook