Chef Paul Prudhomme has died:
October 8, 2015 8:29 PM   Subscribe

He introduced the rest of the world to Cajun foods Chef Prudhomme introduced the world to Cajun foods. Blackened red - fish was his most noted dish. He really will be missed. He had a great personality.
posted by Katjusa Roquette (47 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
 
Damn. I was just in New Orleans earlier this year, should've stopped in when I had the chance.

RIP, chef.
posted by jonmc at 8:33 PM on October 8, 2015


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posted by the man of twists and turns at 8:35 PM on October 8, 2015


I always thought of Justin Wilson as the one who introduced the world to purely Cajun food, as distinct from Prudhomme's Creole, Louisiana restaurant food. I do have a lot more to learn about the both of them, but I'd like to be clearer about the exact contributions of Prudhomme. In any case - and the pedants will weigh in - a culinary giant has passed.
posted by Miko at 8:55 PM on October 8, 2015 [6 favorites]


I'm actually surprised he lived until 75, given his weight and diet. Here's a good bio from NOLA.com and one of his recipes - Chicken and Tasso Jambalaya. I substitute the tasso (spiced smoked pork shoulder) with a spicy sausage, and it's very good.
posted by Joe in Australia at 8:59 PM on October 8, 2015 [4 favorites]


I'm actually surprised he lived until 75, given his weight and diet.

He started losing weight around 20 years ago, and kept on losing it - from 560 pounds to 160, is one figure I saw.

How did he do it? "I eat everything," he said, during a CBS interview, "Just not as much of it."

My all-time favorite recipe from his books is his barbecued shrimp - although I usually cut the butter in half.
posted by dragoon at 9:29 PM on October 8, 2015 [5 favorites]


Reminds me of the joke "I mistakenly went to the new Don Prudhomme restaurant instead of Paul Prudhomme's. Turned out OK, the funny car veal was excellent."
posted by Rob Rockets at 10:05 PM on October 8, 2015 [3 favorites]


Any chef that's bulletproof has my respect.
posted by komara at 10:11 PM on October 8, 2015


I'll remember him spearheading the effort to get people to eat more nutria.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 10:13 PM on October 8, 2015 [3 favorites]


In the early 1980's one could see people walking around the French Quarter with a gold foil star on their forehead. I would smile at them and say, "I see you ate all of your dinner." K-Paul's restaurant would give diners a gold star for cleaning their plate!

R.I.P
posted by JujuB at 10:15 PM on October 8, 2015 [7 favorites]


I ate at K-Paul's maybe eighty times. One thing he did which I much appreciated is he ran a lunch place in the upstairs at lunchtime while he was building his business and for what they served you it was a great deal. There was many a time when I would walk by his restaurant at dinner time and marvel at the tourists lined up outside the front door forty fifty sixty deep when I had waltzed into the upstairs for lunch earlier in the day and was in and out in a half hour.

I have no idea how they did it downstairs but god they used a lot of tabasco and cayenne upstairs.

Laissez les bon temps roulez
posted by bukvich at 10:19 PM on October 8, 2015 [2 favorites]


Bon voyage, Chef Prudhomme. Thanks for showing us all
that Cajun cuisine is great.
Though with so many tasty fried morsels...
Perhaps it was something he ate?
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posted by markkraft at 10:20 PM on October 8, 2015 [2 favorites]


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posted by pt68 at 10:25 PM on October 8, 2015


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Seemed like a sweetheart.
posted by oceanjesse at 10:58 PM on October 8, 2015


Spooky, just though of k'pauls last nite for the first time in years as I was thinking of blackening some fish for dinner. Even though at the time I remember being sooo very hungry,glad my parents dragged me out to wait in line every time we went to nawlins. The star on my face was worth it * he will be missed ****
posted by ch3ch2oh at 11:32 PM on October 8, 2015


Aww, I still have the gold star from K-Pauls stuck to the mirror in my travel kit.


posted by jamaro at 11:41 PM on October 8, 2015 [3 favorites]


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posted by Token Meme at 11:54 PM on October 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


Prudhomme popularized blackened red snapper which was so good that the species still hasn't recovered.

"The red snapper population was rapidly depleted from 1950 through the late 1980s as commercial and recreational landings and shrimp effort increased. The population reached its lowest level in 1990, when spawning potential declined to just 2.6%—well below the level necessary to sustain the red snapper population. Today spawning potential is about 13%, far higher than just five years ago, and a little over half way to the target level."

It's not often that a chef creates a dish so staggeringly delicious that it becomes a near extinction event.
posted by three blind mice at 12:00 AM on October 9, 2015 [11 favorites]


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posted by eustatic at 12:45 AM on October 9, 2015


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posted by valkane at 1:02 AM on October 9, 2015


Miko, it's a little bit complicated.

For one thing, Prudhomme introduced Cajun food to restaurants, and thus to middle class people. He came to prominence around the time I was born, so I never directly experienced life in Southern Louisiana before Paul Prudhomme. But I know that my grandmother has always been somewhat ashamed of the Cajun foodways she grew up with, always trying to doctor it up and Yankify it. Whereas my mom, who is definitely of the Prudhomme (and Justin Wilson) generation, came into adulthood understanding that Cajun food was something people would pay money to eat in restaurants. There's something to be said for that, rather than sticking one's nose up at "restaurant" cuisine. It's quite possible that Paul Prudhomme is the reason I grew up with red beans and rice, gumbo, and jambalaya in the family dinner rotation rather than an endless stream of bland casseroles out of Lady's Home Journal.

I'm also pretty sure Prudhomme's take on Cajun is the one most non-Cajuns are familiar with. I wish more people knew about Justin Wilson (and Martin Folse, John Besh, etc), but, hey, blackened redfish is a start.

Also, my high school had a dormitory called Prudhomme Hall. Not sure it was named for that Prudhomme family, but I like to think so.

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posted by Sara C. at 1:20 AM on October 9, 2015 [10 favorites]


"I always thought of Justin Wilson as the one who introduced the world to purely Cajun food, as distinct from Prudhomme's Creole, Louisiana restaurant food. I do have a lot more to learn about the both of them, but I'd like to be clearer about the exact contributions of Prudhomme. In any case - and the pedants will weigh in - a culinary giant has passed.

You're right that it wasn't precisely an authentic cajun cuisine, it was a fusion, very much a New Orleans thing. But of course it drew heavily from traditional cajun food.

During the mid-80s, I worked at two different restaurants which had executive chefs who trained with Prudhomme. One of the two was genuinely a full-blooded cajun from the bayou -- I became friends with his brother who washed dishes. The brother didn't have anything more than an elementary school education, but it bothered me because his brother the chef/owner was mostly embarassed by him and treated him badly. But then he treated everyone badly. Easily one of the worst people I ever worked for.

The other guy had been a chef for a good while and he'd been brought in as a consultant to design the menu for a new restaurant.

Anyway, I never worked anywhere other than the front of the house, but I was always interested in what they did in the kitchen and I'd fallen in love with this cuisine. It's my second favorite cuisine, after New Mexican. So I spent a lot of time talking to and watching the prep cooks and the line cooks and sometimes talked at length with the chefs about it. As cajun become popular nationwide in the 80s, you'd find "blackened" food all over the place and everyone did it wrong. It would usually be like some kind of slightly scorched sautee or something. It drove me crazy because the blackening thing tasted wonderful when it was done correctly.

Dammit, right at this moment I think I would kill for some crawfish etouffee. It's hard to find restaurants that serve cajun food these days, much less ones that do a decent job of it. When I lived in Austin in the late 90s and early 00s, there was a pretty good place -- in fact, it was the restaurant in which they filmed the scenes in Office Space. I was very sad to learn that they went out of business.

I still buy bottles of his seasoning -- kind of silly, as I'm pretty sure I know most of what's in it, but when I have it on hand I end up using it all the time because why not? It's good.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 1:45 AM on October 9, 2015 [3 favorites]


If we see Dom DeLouise at the funeral, The Great Question will finally be answered.

That said, a big heart and a great appetite have been silenced: .
posted by wenestvedt at 3:10 AM on October 9, 2015 [4 favorites]


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posted by Cash4Lead at 4:47 AM on October 9, 2015


Chicken and Tasso Jambalaya

I have made his recipe, when I stumbled into possession of a chunk of tasso (not so easy in Minneapolis), and I remember, when I was stirring the pot in the early stages, I was like "OMG, I am stirring two pounds of meat!" Then I added other ingredients. It made a lot of food.
posted by GenjiandProust at 4:52 AM on October 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


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posted by Gelatin at 5:14 AM on October 9, 2015


Prudhomme was some who really improved the quality (in taste if not healthiness) of the food in this country. Julia Child is often credited with introducing much of the U.S. to the idea of fine cooking and dining; Chef Prudhomme took it one step further and showed us great food could be had with our own American cuisines.
posted by TedW at 5:25 AM on October 9, 2015 [4 favorites]


Miko is quite correct. Ah ga-ron-TEEE.

If Cajun food interests you, searching the 'toob for "justin wilson cajun cooking" is worth doing. You'll find lots there. Dirty Rice.
posted by jfuller at 5:41 AM on October 9, 2015 [3 favorites]


> Turned out OK, the funny car veal was excellent.

If you can power-shift that Hurst faster that Don your dinner is free. You can't, though.
posted by jfuller at 5:45 AM on October 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


Justin Wilson always said "OooooooEEEEEEE!" like he was calling a hog to come help him cook. It was adorable.
posted by wenestvedt at 5:46 AM on October 9, 2015 [3 favorites]


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Love me some blackened fish.
Learned to cook it too.
posted by Mezentian at 5:48 AM on October 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


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posted by Foosnark at 6:14 AM on October 9, 2015


A great loss to me: I can't find my snapshot of a very (very!) unassuming roadhouse on a secondary road north of Baton Rouge, with one of those tow-and-park signboards outside advertising "blackened lunchmeat".
posted by jfuller at 6:15 AM on October 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


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posted by gauche at 6:24 AM on October 9, 2015


When I was very young, my father (a short order egg master and chili maestro) pointed to a bottle of Chef Prudhomme's Magic Seasoning and told us the man in the picture was a chef in New Orleans, that he was enormous and fun-loving, and he's the reason my dad made us étouffée and jambalaya and took us out for Cajun chicken and fries at our local Louisiana-themed takeout joint. Paul Prudhomme was the first famous chef I ever heard of. A lot of people I know grew up watching Julia Child on PBS, but in our house, in which "too spicy" was unheard-of, Paul Prudhomme was our man.

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posted by sallybrown at 6:32 AM on October 9, 2015 [4 favorites]


It's not often that a chef creates a dish so staggeringly delicious that it becomes a near extinction event.

Prudhomme's redfish is red drum, not red snapper. Both were overfished in the 80s though, and red drum for the reasons you described.
posted by gordie at 6:59 AM on October 9, 2015 [3 favorites]


The chef who invented turducken died. In keeping with his final wishes, he will be buried normally you monsters.
posted by growabrain at 7:04 AM on October 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


Any chef that's bulletproof has my respect.

Anywhere where the police don't bother to investigate a firearm discharged at a person has my sympathy.
posted by epo at 7:10 AM on October 9, 2015


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posted by jaguar at 7:15 AM on October 9, 2015


"Prudhomme's redfish is red drum, not red snapper. Both were overfished in the 80s though, and red drum for the reasons you described."

It tends to have worms, too -- you'll see them when you filet the fish and, if the fish are fresh and the worms are still alive, they'll flee the fish when you start cooking it. It's the sort of thing that diners don't really want to know about. I see that LSU's web page about the parasite says that they're common in that family of saltwater fish.

I like shellfish -- a lot -- but I mostly don't care for fish, freshwater or saltwater. When I do like fish, it's the more firm varieties, but I don't much care for the fishy taste. Redfish prepared as blackened tastes pretty good to me, though.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 7:26 AM on October 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


Went to K Paul's once. No reservations. You wait in line. They seat people as seats, not tables, become available. So you might end up at a table with complete strangers. The servings were huge. And the food was simply amazing. To earn the gold star you had to clean your plate. All the plates. The only problem was not the food but the amount. It was so good you just wanted to eat every last bite. One of my most memorable meals. I wore the gold star with pride.

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posted by njohnson23 at 9:57 AM on October 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


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posted by Splunge at 10:23 AM on October 9, 2015


On the topic of the Jambalaya With Tasso recipe, I'm almost certain that my mom subbed the tasso in the recipe with Kielbasa. No idea why she did that, as we lived in South Louisiana where tasso is arguably easier to find than a Polish sausage. But if folks in the Midwest are looking for an appropriate substitute, maybe?
posted by Sara C. at 10:53 AM on October 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


It tends to have worms, too

Almost all commercial fish does. I got to spend some time in a Gloucester fish processing plant watching the women pull parasites out of cod, rockfish, tuna, sword, and everything else. I do think it would surprise seafood lovers how much parasitism there is.
posted by Miko at 11:19 AM on October 9, 2015


> I do think it would surprise seafood lovers how much parasitism there is.

If we could remove everything about you (not you especally, Miko) except your infestation of micronematodes, there would still be a ghostly you visible there.
posted by jfuller at 5:18 PM on October 9, 2015


> In any case - and the pedants will weigh in.

Pedant weigh-in is over there. Twelve stone minimum to have an opinion about cooking.
posted by jfuller at 5:27 PM on October 9, 2015 [4 favorites]


In case it's not clear my use of "pedant" is tongue-in-cheek here. I'm totally guilty of food pedantry myself so I don't honestly think it's a bad thing! I really appreciate the comments here that helped me contextualize Prudhomme more.
posted by Miko at 10:26 AM on October 10, 2015


When I was a kid in New Orleans, my dad had a one-man air-conditioning/refrigeration business, and somehow he got the Brennan's & Commander's accounts. On night calls, which were common in the restaurant business, I would often be called to serve as helper—holding flashlights, running back to the truck for this or that part or tool, etc. When Prudhomme made the bold, big-local-news move to leave Commander's and start his own restaurant, he asked my dad to set him up with used equipment (ice machines, cold prep tables, etc.), and we were there pretty often in the month or so before opening. I knew he was locally famous, like lots of people you'd see (The district attorney, Harry Connick, played piano & sang at Port o' Call, for example. And Jim Garrison would come to your door asking for your vote ... my mom lifted his pipe from a party once, because he was a hero to her for his JFK investigation.)

Anyway, I didn't know he was becoming famous for making the kind of food we cooked at home—typical cajun food brought from the small towns to the city, where it mixed with creole food and became the usual schedule of New Orleans home meals (red beans on Monday because you use up the leftover Sunday ham, etc.). So one time when we were fixing something right before opening, friendly Paul offers to make me lunch. Being a 10-year-old kid who rarely ate out, I asked for a cheeseburger. Paul Prudhomme smiled and cut up a piece of steak and a few minutes later I was sitting at the counter in the kitchen eating a steakburger on toasted french bread.

My family left town for the southwest not long after, so we got to watch his rise to global ambassador of New Orleans food from afar. I'm happy he had a long and successful life.
posted by kenlayne at 12:37 PM on October 10, 2015 [10 favorites]


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