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Name Some Famous Cajun Chefs


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#1 saturnbar

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Posted 31 January 2008 - 07:42 PM

Hey folks, if I could impose on you for some assiatnce. For my daughter's 5th grade history project she has to do little presentation on famous cajun chefs. So far we have Prudhomme, Justin Wilson, John Folse, Donald Link, and I can't really think of any others. A little background or notable achievments would help if they are obscure personalities. Thanks a bunch. Charlie

#2 Dave the Cook

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Posted 31 January 2008 - 09:21 PM

It depends on your definition of "Cajun." After Prudhomme, the foremost exponent of the craft is almost certainly Emeril Lagasse, though his roots are in Portuguese Rhode Island, not the bayou.

Then there's Susan Spicer, Frank Brightsen, Ann Cashion, Leah Chase, Austin Leslie, John Besh. And more, which I'm sure others will add. Googling any of those names will bring up tons of information.

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#3 syoung68

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Posted 01 February 2008 - 07:46 AM

This is going to bring in the cajun/creole debate. I think the chefs that Dave has named are all creole - not cajun. In fact, I would classify Leah Chase and Austin Leslie as soul food or southern chefs not cajun. Of all of them I might put Emeril in the cajun mix eventhough there is not much cajun in his restaurants, he has put out some cajun styled cookbooks.

One of the problems is that real cajun food is home cooking - jambalaya, gumbo, pork (delicious pork), etc. There are not that many famous cajun chefs. You could look in the Lafayette area but then I am not sure how "famous" they would be.

#4 saturnbar

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Posted 01 February 2008 - 08:50 AM

Yeah, I am thinking that you have to be more than a practioner and have to actually be from southwest Louisiana. If you talk funny thats a plus. So that puts Emeril out and probably Besh too, although he is close. The creole/cajun distinction might prove too fine a line. I thought of Jack Leonardi, not sure if he is famous enough or what his roots are, but I think his food fits. Marcelle Bienvenue also. She is in wikipedia so I guess she is famous enough. Not sure she would call herself a chef, who knows maybe she will chime in. I hadn't thought of Frank Brightsen, he is a good fit. Susan Spicer doesn't fit. Thanks for everyone's input, keep it coming. ch

#5 My Confusing Horoscope

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Posted 01 February 2008 - 02:36 PM

If you can include products, your daughter might like to research Tabasco sauce, Steen's Syrup, and Louisiana coffees like Community and Mello Joy.
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#6 TAPrice

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Posted 04 February 2008 - 09:00 PM

It depends on your definition of "Cajun." After Prudhomme, the foremost exponent of the craft is almost certainly Emeril Lagasse, though his roots are in Portuguese Rhode Island, not the bayou.

Then there's Susan Spicer, Frank Brightsen, Ann Cashion, Leah Chase, Austin Leslie, John Besh. And more, which I'm sure others will add. Googling any of those names will bring up tons of information.

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Not a single chef you mention is Cajun. Ann Cashion doesn't even have a professional connection to Louisiana, although she is around a lot (I just saw her down at the parades yesterday) and I would love for her to open a restaurant here.
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#7 Dave the Cook

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Posted 04 February 2008 - 09:31 PM

As I said, it depends on your definition. There are chefs who have Cajun roots, there are chefs who have roots elsewhere who cook Cajun food. There are chefs who cook other cuisines but are clearly influenced by Cajun ingredients and techniques. If we're going to clamp down hard on the meaning of "Cajun," the group that qualifies is going to be uselessly small for anyone who doesn't live within 40 miles of Lafayette.

And please don't tell me that one must work in Louisiana to be a Cajun chef. Some of the best Cajun food I've had was the product of Vietnamese and Chinese cooks a time zone or more removed from the bayou.

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#8 TAPrice

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Posted 05 February 2008 - 05:06 AM

Sure, if you're definition of Cajun is not Cajun.

You're confusing Cajun and Creole, I think. You don't get more Creole than Austin Leslie and Leah Chase.

It's interesting that people mentioned Emeril and Jack Leonardi. Neither is ethnically Cajun, of course. I wouldn't consider them Cajun cooks. They both, though, follow in the path Paul Prudhomme. Emeril took over Commander's Place from Prudhomm and Leonardi cooked with him at K-Paul. Prudhomme, although he's certainly a Cajun, insists that his food is Louisiana food, which does really capture how it combines traditional Cajun cooking with New Orleans restaurant cooking into something new. Lots of cooks are still working that very fruitful vein.
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#9 PopsicleToze

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Posted 05 February 2008 - 06:51 AM

Warren LeRuth would be a great one to add. He owned LeRuth's restaurant on the westbank and also consulted with various companies to create dishes for them. I've heard that he is the person that created Popeye's red beans. One cookbook credits him with creating oyster-artichoke soup, which is amazing.

#10 foodie52

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Posted 05 February 2008 - 07:00 AM

This is a FIFTH GRADE school project! I'm sure there is plenty of wiggle room. As a parent and a former school teacher, I'd advise you to choose a couple of chefs and have fun with it. Don't overanalyze, for heaven's sake: otherwise it becomes a chore, uninteresting to your daughter, and YOUR project instead of hers.

#11 joiei

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Posted 05 February 2008 - 07:02 AM

From the original post, they were looking for suggestions for Cajun chefs, not cajun inspired chefs,

So far we have Prudhomme, Justin Wilson, John Folse, Donald Link, and I can't really think of any others.

This will eliminate all those other chefs mentioned so far.
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#12 hummingbirdkiss

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Posted 05 February 2008 - 07:34 AM

I thought for sure Justin Wilson was a Cajun chef no? ...he is "inspired" an not a "real"?

I am shattered :sad:

#13 hummingbirdkiss

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Posted 05 February 2008 - 07:35 AM

This is a FIFTH GRADE school project! I'm sure there is plenty of wiggle room. As a parent and a former school teacher, I'd advise you to choose a couple of chefs and have fun with it. Don't overanalyze, for heaven's sake: otherwise it becomes a chore, uninteresting to your daughter, and YOUR project instead of hers.

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I totally agree with this ..

#14 TAPrice

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Posted 05 February 2008 - 10:00 AM

I thought for sure Justin Wilson was a Cajun chef no? ...he is "inspired" an not a "real"?

I am shattered  :sad:

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I think Joiei was including all the chefs he quoted. According to this wikipedia entry (and I trust everything I read on the internets :wink: ) Wilson is half Cajun.

Getting back to subjects for the school project...Marcelle Bienvenu would be a great subject. She worked on the Louisiana volume of the Time-Life foods of America series, publishes great books and articles and works with Emeril on his books. She even drops into the eGullet forums sometimes to leave a comment. :biggrin:
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#15 Dave the Cook

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Posted 05 February 2008 - 02:29 PM

. . . . You don't get more Creole than Austin Leslie and Leah Chase.

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Duh. Of course you're right, and you identified the trap I jumped into before I bothered to have an intelligent thought: Cajun = Louisiana, which is incorrect.

But while I appreciate the desire to maintain some sort of purity with respect to defining "Cajun chef," it seems to me that doing so risks trapping the craft in somewhere in the past, not to mention limiting its practice to a specific geography. It's like saying that Batali can't be an Italian chef because he was born in Seattle -- or that he can't be anything but an Italian chef because of his last name.

Marcelle Bienvenue is an excellent suggestion.

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#16 TAPrice

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Posted 05 February 2008 - 03:09 PM

. . . . You don't get more Creole than Austin Leslie and Leah Chase.

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Duh. Of course you're right, and you identified the trap I jumped into before I bothered to have an intelligent thought: Cajun = Louisiana, which is incorrect.

But while I appreciate the desire to maintain some sort of purity with respect to defining "Cajun chef," it seems to me that doing so risks trapping the craft in somewhere in the past, not to mention limiting its practice to a specific geography. It's like saying that Batali can't be an Italian chef because he was born in Seattle -- or that he can't be anything but an Italian chef because of his last name.

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I don't think I ever suggested that. If I did, I didn't mean to. :unsure:

Prudhomme's label of Louisiana cuisine, or perhaps Contemporary Louisiana, makes sense. There are a lot of chefs in New Orleans, just like chefs everywhere, who are comfortable riffing on tradition and borrowing flavors from many cuisines. Here, though, a lot of high-end food still taste like it comes from Louisiana. It's not Cajun, it's not Creole, but it's certainly local.

You also have to keep in mind that Cajun isn't just a cuisine, it's a people and a culture. Keeping the distinction clear is a way of recognizing a fascinating culture that has too often been reduced to a shallow stereotype (you know, an odd accent and too much cayenne).
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#17 Pierogi

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Posted 05 February 2008 - 10:43 PM

How about Lucy Zaunbrecher (I am totally not sure I spelled her last name correctly.......but it's phonetically pretty close)? I used to get her cooking show on my satellite service and loved it. She's pretty darned authentic !
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#18 saturnbar

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Posted 07 February 2008 - 02:45 PM

Thanks for all the replies, looks like the question inspired some interesting debate. I thought of Alex Patout as well. But certainly we have plenty to work with at this point. Looking over the list I find its funny how central Commanders Palace is to so many "famous Cajun chefs" (whatever that means). Also, I noticed that the Wikipedia article on Prudhomme is just a stub, might have to do a secondary project and upgrade that as well.

#19 Mayhaw Man

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Posted 07 February 2008 - 03:27 PM

Aside from the obvious suggestions of Paul Prudhomme and Justin Wilson, you probably should include John Folse. Not only can the guy cook, but he is a hell of a culinary leader for the culture and the state. Nice guy, too.

John Folse does lots of stuff. Well.
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#20 saturnbar

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Posted 07 February 2008 - 04:46 PM

Hey Brooks, thanks for the link, I hadn't seen his latest tome. I must say, Folse comes up with some great book covers. By the way, where ya been. ch

#21 Mayhaw Man

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Posted 07 February 2008 - 05:07 PM

It's a great book. My boys gave it to me for Christmas.

As for where I've been, well, I've taken over as head distiller at New Orleans Rum. While I know alot, I have to say that the learning curve has been pretty steep and has definitely wrecked my usual routines. That, and the coupling of Christmas and Mardi Gras (it might not seem that way to most of the country, but believe me it's the way that it works here) have left me with little time to think, much less type.
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#22 saturnbar

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Posted 07 February 2008 - 05:17 PM

Congratulations, looks like you guys have a great product. They had a nice presentation at Langensteins. You should organize an egullet tour when you get your head on straight. ch

#23 Marcelle Bienvenu

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Posted 09 February 2008 - 07:24 AM

Marcelle Bienvenu here. Regarding your request for information on Cajun Chefs.

I'm happy to hear that a fifth-grader is interested in doing a project on famous Cajun chefs.

And I appreciate the mention of my name in this forum on this topic. I do not consider myself a chef, but a food writer, cookbook author and a food historian on Cajun and Creole cuisines. I have worked for both Chef Paul Prudhomme and Emeril Lagasse.

Paul comes from Cajun roots and was probably the first chef to introduce Cajun cuisine on the culinary scene when he became executive chef at Commander's Palace in the 1970s.

Before Paul began preaching the gospel of Cajun cooking, it was easy enough to distinguish between Cajun and Creole. Cajun cooking was "country" cooking and Creole was "city" cooking. But now both cuisines overlap.

In the book STIR THE POT; THE HISTORY OF CAJUN CUISINE, I co-authored with Carl Brasseaux and his son Ryan, we follow the evolution and development of the cuisine. It's worth a read, but may be a little heavy for a fifth-grader.

Anyway, my list of "famous" Cajun chefs would include Paul Prudhomme, John Folse, and newcomer Donald Link, although they have all put their own personal spin on the humble cuisine of Cajun cooking, and have brought the country dishes to new heights.

I remember a young chef years ago, when asked what Cajun cooking was, answered that it was "what your mama cooked."

I would be happy to help you and your fifth-grader with the project.

Marcelle Bienvenu

#24 RAHiggins1

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Posted 12 February 2008 - 07:25 AM

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#25 TAPrice

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Posted 12 February 2008 - 08:46 AM

Roy F. Guste Jr.

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Is he a chef? I know he wrote the Antoine's cookbook and used to the run the restaurant, but I didn't realize he cooked.

Although running Antoine's puts him squarely on the Creole side of that culinary divide.
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#26 Robert Peyton

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Posted 20 February 2008 - 09:58 PM

I thought for sure Justin Wilson was a Cajun chef no? ...he is "inspired" an not a "real"?

I am shattered  :sad:

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I think Joiei was including all the chefs he quoted. According to this wikipedia entry (and I trust everything I read on the internets :wink: ) Wilson is half Cajun.


Justin was from Tangipahoa Parish. His "Cajun" accent was an act. Much like the way Paula Deen pretends to be human. He was a great guy, and a precursor to Prudhomme and Emeril. I don't mean to suggest there was anything sinister about the Cajun schtick. He was an entertainer first and foremost, and a good one by all accounts.