Had Emeril’s Delmonico been open for lunch, Wendell Pierce would probably have ordered the duck confit leg, served with a creamy barley risotto, roasted beets and snap peas. Instead, Mr. Pierce, a star of the HBO series “Treme,” ended up a few blocks away at Houston’s, where — given his perennial dieting — he made do with clam chowder and steamed spinach.
It was hardly a quintessential New Orleans meal. And Mr. Pierce, who grew up here, apologized for taking an out-of-town reporter to a chain restaurant in a city known for its culinary traditions. “You would love the Bon Ton,” he crooned in his deep baritone, referring to the historic Cajun joint that is famous for its Rum Ramsey cocktail. “And you would love Olivier’s. They have a 100-year-old rabbit recipe from Mr. Olivier. It is so good.”
Food has always been important to the portly actor, who first drew national acclaim in the role of Detective Bunk Moreland on another HBO series, “The Wire,” and now plays the trombonist Antoine Batiste on “Treme,” which is filming episodes in New Orleans for broadcast next fall.
His mother raised him on a diet of bayou classics like okra with shrimp, and he has been a gustatory adventurer ever since, seeking out dishes like Creole tacos at Juan’s Flying Burrito or the grilled octopus at El Pote Español in New York, where he lives for part of the year.
Many celebrities with a taste for good food veer into the restaurant business, but Mr. Pierce has taken a different tack. This summer, he and two business partners plan to open a grocery store called Sterling Farms, the first of several in New Orleans’s low-income neighborhoods, where supermarkets are scarce.