Meet The Central City BBQ Crew


James Cruse
Award-winning Pitmaster

Central City is honored and delighted to call three-time Grand Champion winner of the renowned BBQing competition ‘Hogs For The Cause’ James Cruse Jr. our illustrious Pitmaster. You can usually find Cruse somewhere in the kitchen manning our smokers, managing our amazing back-of-the-house team, and cooking up what many call the most kick-ass BBQ in New Orleans.

While Cruse's professional background is in sales and project management, he has loved cooking bbq for family, friends, and customers over the last 22+ years. He has also competed on the professional bbq circuit for over 13 years, taking home hundreds of awards in national competitions like 3rd place in Ribs at The Memphis in May World Championship in 2019. Now that he has made his personal passion into a career, he enthusiastically shares that passion with others by teaching classes for the Barbeque Competitors Alliance in his spare time.


Marc Bonifacic
Managing Partner

BBQ is in Marc Bonifacic’s blood. Marc’s grandfather owned a 24-hour grocery/BBQ shop in Chicago called “Bonifacic’s BBQ,” and his specialty was smoked ribs that melted off the bone. His grandfather taught his dad everything he knew, and his dad passed along that knowledge and passion to Marc.

 Marc grew up in New Orleans and graduated from Jesuit, going on to attend Auburn University and earn his MBA from Tulane, a degree that he put into action by going into a career of finance. However, his passion for great BBQ never left him. That continuous love culminated in him developing and opening his dream project, Central City BBQ, in 2016. Now, he is able to have the best of both worlds and satisfy both his entrepreneurial spirit and his love for amazing BBQ. 


Aaron Burgau

Born in New Orleans, Aaron began his culinary career working with some of the city’s most honored chefs, including James Beard Award-winning Susan Spicer (Bayona and Mondo), and local legend Gerard Maras (Gerard’s Downtown). In 2006, he became the Executive Chef at Bank Cafe, and that same year was named one of the Top Five “Chefs to Watch” by Louisiana Cookin’ Magazine. In 2007, he partnered with longtime friend and entrepreneur Leon Touzet, to open Patois. Since then, Chef Aaron’s food has been recognized annually by The Times-Picayune and been featured in Garden & Gun magazine, among other national, regional, and local publications.

Chef Aaron has proven himself to be a master of a diverse range of cuisines, and he was thrilled for the opportunity to immerse himself in the South’s favorite comfort food delicacy by taking on Central City BBQ as a partner. Aaron plays an integral role in refining and elevating the menu offerings at Central City, and the restaurant is proud to have the award-winning Chef Aaron on board.


Donna Tran
General Manager

Donna has worked in the hospitality industry for over 15 years, and she defines herself as a “workaholic.” Her passion for cooking for and serving others stems from her belief that food brings people together and deepens the strength of bonds and relationships. She feels that GOOD food creates internal happiness and can change people’s day for the better, which is why she is always 100% committed to ensuring that the food and service people experience at Central City BBQ is always the best it can possibly be.