Louisiana cooking

Small Business Series: Three Black Chefs That Everyone Should Know – Chicago Defender

When it comes to food, people often think of it as the not so talked about, fairly unknown, sixth love language. It has the power to bring people together, foster conversations, settle the most trivial of disputes, calm the spirit, and just show how much you care. Food nourishes the soul, is a part of our culture, shapes some of our identities, and is often the framework for how we communicate with one another.  as important as food is in our lives, it is the ones who prepare it that are the real masterminds behind the feelings that some of our favorite meals bring.

For these three chefs, they take great pride and delight in our happiness whenever we taste their dishes, and go the extra mile to ensure that we keep coming back for more. The first began his journey after missing the Southern-Creole flavors of his parent’s kitchen, and now offers a taste of Louisiana in each bite. Next is someone who inherited the cooking gene from his mother, and through the power of a pandemic and social media, has gone from preparing meals solely for the boardroom to people’s living rooms. And lastly, after initially proving that alcohol and sweets really can be a match made in heaven, this baker created a space for people to connect and create a community over her baked goods.

Allen Rochelle, Chef Allen

What is Chef Allen’s Story?

I started cooking out of necessity. I was in college, away from home, and missed my parents’ cooking, so I would call and ask them how to make certain things. From there, it turned into a thing where my friends thought that I could cook very well. After moving to Chicago, I tried and enjoyed a lot of different cuisines, but felt that the niche of Southern-Creole cuisine was missing, so I decided to buy a restaurant. In doing so, I provided the recipes that I came up with over the years, as the menu. It wasn’t until one day, where I had chefs call off, that I had to cook on the line. From that day forward, I became an actual chef and not just the owner. The passion and my overall skillset continued to build from a presentation and professional perspective with the flavors and the food of Louisiana.

What’s been your transition or journey since becoming a chef?

Because my restaurant wasn’t in the best area, I ended up closing it down and relocating to Houston. When I returned to Chicago, there were options for me to get another store-front, but ultimately I decided to just focus on catering and pop-up brunches, along with meal services. That allows the overhead to stay down in a market where it can be high. With my clients, I’m able to provide the exact inventory that I need instead of getting a menu and having to stock up on everything. With those few changes, it continues to be profitable and enables me to work at my leisure and still travel the world.

In addition to meal prep and pop-up brunches, are there any other events that you do? And what are the different types of events that you do?

Last year, I did over eight different pop-up brunch events. I put together a Southern-Creole style menu and held them at various venues throughout the city. I went into their kitchens with my expertise, utilized their staff, and had DJs. In addition to the brunches, I’ve done crawfish or seafood boils for the last eight years at different locations. That allows me to have anywhere from ten to twelve events. I’ve done events for churches and parties as well. This past February, I did an event in Houston for 800 people, including their mayor.

What are some of your most popular dishes?

I was born and raised in Louisiana and lived in New Orleans for a little while, so I definitely have a knack for providing Southern-Creole food. My specialties can be anywhere from étouffée, gumbo, shrimp, and grits to spaghetti and jambalaya. I also specialize in making healthy food that’s portioned out to help you lose weight and making it tasty. My company, Windy City Meals, provides that service.

What has been the most significant impact on those who you have catered for?

I just love seeing people enjoy the good soul and quality of food. It brings me so much joy sometimes to have dishes that made me happy as a kid and then passing it on to my clients. Thus just giving them a piece of Louisiana. As someone from Louisiana, we cook from our hearts and enjoy seeing people eating our food. We’re going to provide you with an abundance of food, and I’ve never skimped out on portions.

What’s one thing that you want people to know about you?

I take pride in the work that I do and am always here to continue providing excellent service. Also, I’m just passionate about cooking. So if you want me to reach back and find someone passionate about cooking as well, I’m interested in continuing my mentoring program. I’ve trained different people and helped them find cooking jobs. The biggest joy is seeing other people being just as successful or passing me up because cooking can be there for anybody. It can be a safe haven or something that gives you a release, and I want more people to understand that it’s not as hard as it looks.

What have you learned since embarking on a career as a chef?

It is crucial to have a strong team, continuing to grow, traveling the world, visiting new cuisines, and implementing that back into what I have. It gives me a continuous appreciation for how food is a love language, and by providing that, I’m making a lot of people happy.

For more information on Chef Allen, please visit and follow him on Instagram @ajrochel.

Xavier Vance, Southern Rich

How long have you been a chef, and what led you to go down that path?

I’ve been a chef for five years. What led me down that path was my love for food and amazing cuisine. Growing up, my mom cooked every single day for me, and it just became embedded in my DNA. I come from a very large family, my mom is one of 14, and for every family reunion, she did all of the cooking. So I get my love and passion from her.

What are some of your signature dishes?

Some of my signature dishes are my southern fried chicken, Cajun shrimp, and grits, lamb chop Cajun pasta, seafood boils, and pot roast with mashed potatoes. I also do a lot of weekly meals, where I give people the option of purchasing individual meals. In addition to that, I provide full service, private catering packages for people who are still trying to enjoy their celebrations but want to keep it small in light of the pandemic.

How has your journey as a chef changed over time? Has it led to other ventures, or is it the opposite?

It’s the opposite. I was the senior class president in high school, and in charge of planning all of our festivities. From there, I fell in love with the events industry and started planning events right after graduation. I then went to the Illinois Institute of Arts for culinary school because I always had a dream of opening a restaurant. Being in class made me fall more in love with the craft of food and cuisine, so when I finished, I added catering to my event services. Since adding catering, I’ve had an increase in exposure.

What have you learned since embarking on a career as a chef?

One thing that has been a critical learning point for me is presentation. People eat with their eyes. So something can taste good, but if it’s not plated or presented the right way, the mind will automatically think that it’s not. When I post photos and videos of my food, and the presentation is on point, people always mention how good it looks. So I always want to make sure that the presentation matches the flavor.

When embarking on a career as a chef, did you imagine the growth and exposure that you currently have?

No, not at all. During this pandemic, I have seen a spark in exposure and sales. Before the pandemic, we did more corporate events. But now that all of the offices are closed, I’ve been doing more personal and private jobs. People have been reaching out non-stop, and all it is from Instagram. This has shown me that social media is more important than I thought of as an entrepreneur.

In addition to your upcoming restaurant, Southern Rich, what does the future hold for you?

I’m hoping to continue doing private dinners and just build a team of chefs to keep that service going. I would also like to take Southern Rich to other locations.

What’s one thing that you want people to know about the work that you do?

I’m really big on customer service. That comes before my food. I take pride in making sure that people have the best customer service. No one is perfect, so when we do make mistakes, it’s all about how we handle them and make people feel.

For more information on Xavier and Southern Rich, please visit and follow him on Instagram @Xavier.Vance.

Janell Richmond, Eméché Cakery & Café

What is Eméché’s story, and what led you to open a bakery?

Eméché means “tipsy” in French, and when I first started, I was doing alcohol-infused cupcakes while living in New York. Around the time of the whole cupcake craze, I considered myself to be a cupcake connoisseur. And after hearing my various critiques, a friend of mine suggested that I started baking my cupcakes and infuse them with alcohol. While living in New York, I purchased my first Kitchenaid mixer and started making cupcakes. Being in the hospitality industry, I naturally developed a passion for food, so I would take my cupcakes to work and get feedback from my colleagues. From there, I did events until later, moving back to Chicago and attending culinary school. This helped me to get more of a foundation and become more versed in different flavors. After doing catering for a while, I learned that I preferred baking and decided to open a kiosk in Chicago Ridge Mall, selling desserts in a jar. That gave me a good understanding of running a business and prepared me for the next step, which was opening a brick and mortar.

What are some of your offerings?

One of my signature items is a vegan sticky bun. I still make the desserts in the jar and will have people come in specifically for that. We are also known for our alcohol-infused desserts such as the bourbon pecan pound cake, which is a top seller. Occasionally we do a lemon meringue cheesecake that we can’t keep on the shelves. There are also breakfast sandwiches that are made with an assortment of jams that my mother makes and sells, as well as lunch items.

How did you choose the name Eméché?

I started out doing alcohol-infused cupcakes, but in the back of my mind, I knew that it would be much more than that. The reason I chose the name, Eméché, was because it said it, without actually saying it. So I knew that if I ventured out, I wouldn’t be pigeonholed or stuck in a niche. With that being in the back of my mind, I was able to evolve throughout the years.

What has been Eméché’s most memorable moment to date?

The way people have supported us by patronizing our business has been the most rewarding and has made me feel so proud.   Proud to be here, proud to be in Bronzeville, and just overwhelmed with gratitude. At one point, I wasn’t sure what was going to happen with the business, so just knowing that there are people who support us is one of the best feelings.

What has been the most significant impact that you’ve had on the lives of your customers?

I would say creating a space. My idea for the space was to bring the community back into the neighborhoods, and I think that we have done a great job. We make sure to remember names, acknowledge all customers, and have conversations with them. It’s even a great feeling when customers know one another and about their personal lives.

Have you had any collaborations or partnerships?

Yes, I partner with brands a lot. I’ve done events with Grey Goose, Martell, and Chandon. I also collaborate with local artists by showcasing their artwork and selling their books. This space is to help everyone. So any way that I can help my fellow entrepreneur or an aspiring artist, I’ll do it the best way that I can. I also do wholesale and sell my items in other restaurants.

What’s one thing that you want people to know about the work that you do?

I want people to know that I’m passionate about what I do and always keep the customer in mind. I also really enjoy it and wanted to bring something different to the community so people can feel safe to hang out and not feel like they have to spend their money elsewhere.

What does the future hold for Eméché?

The plan is to open a second location on the southside. I want to go into neighborhoods that don’t necessarily have this and give them something different, and just keep our dollars in our communities.

For more information on Eméché Cakery & Café, please visit and follow them on Instagram @emechecakery.

Racquel Coral is a lifestyle writer living in Chicago. You can find her on social media @withloveracquel



Louisiana cooking

‘Gordon Ramsay: Uncharted’ Preview Of Season Two Plus A Delicious Recipe Extra – TV Shows Ace

Gordon Ramsay: Uncharted is back for season two and promises an amazing roundup of the exotic and the familiar for viewers.

Not just a cooking show, but Ramsay’s immersive and physical deep dive into cultures and places is what makes this food and travel show a standout for National Geographic Channel.

Uncharted is the vision of an intrepid chef who fears no food or country.

Given Ramsay’s background of moving from his birthplace of Scotland to England and then on to run some of the most prestigious dining rooms in the world at a very young age, too, you could say he has been training for Uncharted his entire life.

Today Ramsay is one of the richest and most successful chef-preneurs around. He has five children and a charitable organization he and his wife Tana run called The Gordon and Tana Ramsay Foundation — which benefits very sick children in the UK.

The new season of Gordon Ramsay: Uncharted

This multi-Michelin-star chef and Ironman athlete continues his adventure, and the cameras will follow Ramsay as he learns of world cultures through food.
“We’ re exploring seven new regions this season, each with vastly different culinary customs and history,” said Ramsay in a press release from NGC. “We get the opportunity to learn from the locals and hear their stories, and that gives us a much deeper experience and understanding of the world around us.”

Ramsay feasts his way through Tasmania, South Africa, Indonesia, Louisiana, Norway, India and Guyana, venturing even more off grid and off recipe to explore new cuisines.

The challenges include “scaling mountains, battling 10-foot waves, braving frigid temperatures and bushwhacking his way through the backcountry to forage for some of the finest ingredients in the world.”

Gordon will swim with the sharks, and run with the bulls. He even eats fried spiders.

National Geographic Channel says:

Some of the adventures — culinary and otherwise — that Ramsay will experience this season

  • Risking life and limb by participating in a traditional bull race in a remote West Sumatran
    rice paddy field
  • Braving Tasmania’s stormy waters to hose-dive among the rocks for giant spiny lobsters
  • Leaping off a helicopter into high waves to harvest mussels along the South African
  • Exploring a bat-infested Indonesian cave system in search of giant prawns
  • Racing a four-wheeler through Louisiana’s dangerously muddy back roads to forage for
    fresh greens and hunt for bullfrogs and crawfish
  • Plunging into Norway’s frigid waters to uncover the bounty of ingredients found within
    the fjords
  • Battling strong surf to catch fish using traditional techniques in South India — that is,
    with a 200-pound net out at sea

Uncharted schedule

Gordon Ramsay: Uncharted – Tasmania airs Sunday, June 7, at 10/9c

Off the coast of southern Australia. He will swim in shark-infested waters for giant saltwater spiny lobsters; avoiding venomous snakes in the bush while foraging for local herbs; and soaring in a seaplane to the rugged interior to fly-fish for trout and extract one-of-a-kind honey, all before facing off against
culinary nomad Analiese Gregory to prepare an epic feast.

Gordon Ramsay: Uncharted – South Africa airs Sunday, June 14, at 10/9c

He finds himself with rhinos, giraffes, zebras and hippos in the dramatic wilderness of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, as he makes a feast based on Zulu
warriors and masters using a local “braai.” He leaps from a helicopter into the raging Indian Ocean, harvests mussels on treacherous rocks and immerses into the local township culture, all before cooking with beloved local chef Zola Nene for a revered Zulu chief.

Gordon Ramsay: Uncharted – Louisiana airs Sunday, June 21, at 10/9c

Time to get into the swamp: Louisiana’s Cajun cooking is what’s for dinner as Eric Cook— a former Marine turned celebrated chef —  sends him off to get lost in the marsh and see what he brings back. In his quest, Ramsay faces down dangerous and delicious creatures from deep in the swamps.

Gordon Ramsay: Uncharted – Indonesia airs Sunday, June 28, at 10/9c

The Indonesian island of Sumatra is where he becomes a deckhand in the open ocean, exploring a daunting cave system, milking buffalo too. Ramsay finds his commitment to world class cooking put to the test.With Indonesia’s own top chef, William Wongso, looking over his

Gordon Ramsay: Uncharted – Guyana ars Sunday, July 5, at 10/9c

The South American rainforest to explore the culinary roots of Guyana. After rappelling from a helicopter into the jungle, he hunts for toothy caiman with his
bare hands, fishes for piranha with a bamboo rod and crafts his own arrow to bow fish for arowana. With his jungle provisions, he will cook with local rising culinary star Delvin Adams to cook a feast for the local Amerindian tribe.

Gordon Ramsay: Uncharted – India airs Sunday, July 12, at 10/9c

From the coast to the mountains of southern India, the complex flavors of the region known as the spice trade capital of the world. He battles ocean waves with a giant fishing net, fights the searing sting of fire ants, speeds through hilly dirt roads in a tiny rally car, he cooks with tough-as-nails chef, food historian and television host Shri Bala takes Ramsay under her wing and gives him a lesson on India’s celebrated spice history.

Gordon Ramsay: Uncharted – Norway airs Sunday, July 19, at 10/9c

The Vikings of Norway offer elusive flavors, from shellfish in the frigid waters of the fjords, or Ramsay’s wrangling of a stomping herd of reindeer with the Sami people, he tests some fermented fish and eats sheep’s head, all before putting his new skills to the test to prepare a Christmas feast with local chef Christopher Haatuft.

Bonus recipe from season two of Uncharted

Gordon’s Indian rice pudding is a winner, try it! Pic credit: NGC

TV Shows Ace has made this one in the test kitchen and its marvelous and quite easy. Go for it!

This recipe is inspired by Gordon’s culinary journeys in India, as seen on the National Geographic series Gordon Ramsay: Uncharted.

Southern India’s coastline in the Indian states of Kerala and Karnataka is what helped shape the cuisine. The flavorful basmati rice pudding mixes cardamom, milk, coffee liqueur and jaggery sugar to create a traditional dessert delicacy.

Cardamom and Bay Leaf Spiced Rice Pudding with Fancy’s Coffee Liqueur
Yields: 1 quart


2 tbsp ghee (you can substitute melted clarified butter)
6 green cardamom pods (easy to find at Indian spice shops)
2 bay leaves, whole
1 pinch salt
1/3 cup jaggery sugar, plus more if necessary (Turbinado works too)
1 cup basmati rice
3 cups milk
1 cup heavy cream
¼ cup plus 2 tbsp coffee liqueur


  • Rinse basmati rice several times with water until water becomes clear, then soak for 20 minutes and drain.
  • In a medium pot, toast lightly in ghee 3-4 green cardamom pods and the bay leaves with a pinch of salt.
  • Add basmati rice and lightly toast the rice until fragrant.
  • Deglaze pan with 2 tbsp of coffee liqueur.
  • Add milk and bring to a boil, stirring constantly.
  • Once rice has reached a boil, turn down to a simmer and add jaggery sugar to taste.
  • Add heavy cream and continue simmering, stirring constantly until liquid has started to thicken.
  • Once rice has cooked through, let rice pudding mixture cool in the fridge.
  • Garnish with coffee liqueur.

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Gordon Ramsay: Uncharted premieres on June 7 at 10/9c on National Geographic Channel.

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Louisiana cooking

Gumbo recipe revealed by man who drove 19 hours to cheer up flood victims – Detroit Free Press

He promised to tell if we could keep a secret.

Dwayne Richard drove 19 hours from his home just north of Lafayette, Louisiana, this week to share his special gumbo with flood victims in Midland County. 

Here the 43-year-old handyman reveals his special recipe southern style: Narrative.

“First you start with a roux. For a small batch, you want to start with a cup of flour, and add oil to it until you get a very soupy consistency. Cook that up in a pan on medium heat until it turns the color of a penny. That’s how we know when it’s ready in Louisiana. You have to stir it constantly or you’ll burn it. Once you’ve gotten that to the copper color of a penny, you turn off the burner and then continue stirring until it cools a little.

“Put that to the side, take you a pot of water and use about 4 to 6 cups of water, depending on how many you’re trying to feed. You can serve 10 to 12 people with four cups. Bring to boil with onions and bell peppers and season until your likings.

“We actually just use a season-all. Our main one back home is either original or extra hot Tony Chachere’s (creole seasoning). You have black pepper, red pepper, salt, probably some garlic salt, paprika, maybe a little bit of sugar. They also have a season-all called Slap Ya Mama, original or Cajun.

“Add your roux. You should add about half the roux and let it boil on low to medium heat for a couple of hours. It should be approximately the color of what the roux was before you added water. At that point, you can use a smoked sausage and cubed chicken – about half a pound or a pound of each. Allow that to cook for about 30 minutes and serve over rice.

“We would definitely be upset if we showed up to someone’s house and they had celery or tomatoes in the gumbo. It’s just not how we cook it. No, absolutely not.

“Oh, and you should definitely have a good side of potato salad. Don’t ask me to give you that recipe. The gumbo was hard enough because I don’t measure anything.”  

Man drives 19 hours to make gumbo for Midland flood victims

Richard (pronounced ree-SHARD), a resident of Richard, Louisiana, says this is a taste of south Louisiana.

“It works well in cold weather and always better if you reheat it a second day and eat it again,” he said. “Always better as a leftover. Sometimes we’ll eat it for a week straight.”

Gumbo is popular in the Deep South but perfect for cold climates, Richard said. “As soon as we get a little cold front, we’ll be breaking out the pots and cooking gumbo.”

Contact Phoebe Wall Howard at 313-222-6512 or Follow her on Twitter @phoebesaid. 

Louisiana cooking

They drove 19 hours to make gumbo for Michigan flood victims – Detroit Free Press

After 17 surgeries from a bone-crushing fall, Dwayne Richard vowed that if he could get out of a wheelchair, he would repay his gratitude with acts of kindness to the world. That’s how he ended up in Sanford, Michigan.

His wife, Tabitha, read news of the two dams failing north of Midland last week, destroyed homes and tattered lives in her Facebook feed, and decided the family of four would head north from their home just north of Lafayette, Louisiana.

She contacted the Michigan governor’s office and the United Way of Midland County.

The response was immediate, Dwayne Richard said: “We were surprised.”

So the handyman and his family drove 19 hours north on Memorial Day, with a U-Haul and truck full of clothes and cleaning supplies. They had leftover donations after collecting to help five families left homeless by a 150-mph tornado at home. 

“When we seen the devastation up here, we thought that would be the best place to bring it. So we packed up and headed on over,” said Dwayne Richard, 43, recalling his path through Mississippi, Kentucky and Ohio.

The family packed onions, bell pepper, seasoning, chicken and sausage — all the fixins for homemade gumbo — on ice and hit the road.

On Monday, they cooked classic jambalaya for flood victims outside a middle school.

Early Tuesday, Dwayne Richard (pronounced re-SHARD) stirred roux, the classic sauce made from flour and fat cooked together, outside the Red Oak Restaurant in downtown Sanford with his son, Taj, daughter, Hannah, and her boyfriend, John Marceaux.

They brought huge pots and prepared everything fresh on-site.

“We packed everything in ice chests and we’ll have about 15 gallons worth of gumbo when we’re done,” he said while cooking, as he talked about seeing rubble and just bare foundations left in places where homes had been swept away.

“Once we finish cooking, we’ll clean up and see if they need us. Then we’ll pack up and head home. We have more work to do for those families who lost their homes in the tornado,” Richard said. “I’m not a super religious person. I have God in my heart.”

He drifted back to 2017 and his memory of four weeks in ICU and more in rehab.

After seeing how strangers “lifted the burden” from his family, Richard said, now that’s how he spends his life — whether it’s helping medical patients pay electric bills or giving Christmas gifts to families who just can’t.

“I give back because it’s been done for me,” he said, noting that this was his first trip to The Mitten. 

No Hollywood

No big-name celebraties are involved in this small-town event.

No Bono. No Lady Gaga. No Paul McCartney.

But there are lots of national and international newspaper headlines. One local resident said she counted five TV trucks from just one news network. It all seems to help.

“The mayor of Baton Rouge called. And the Cajun Navy came here,” said Mayor Maureen Donker of Midland early Tuesday. “If you would see our streets, it’s so sad. You’re seeing families and their whole house out on the curb. And then you have to manage your emotions, your kids’ emotions. … It’s a lot of grieving and anger. But it’s also beautiful — in that you can really see how people care and work to take care of one another.”

Hers is a community coordinating relief for Midland and its tiny neighbors of Edenville and Sanford that have been ripped to shreds by flooding after two major dams north of Midland failed last week.

90-minute delivery

Dave Maddox saw a trucker quoted in the news who couldn’t find a face mask in Midland and didn’t have one to wear while emptying a flood- and sewage-damaged house.

“I own a small business in Chesterfield Township … and have thousands of masks in stock and would be willing to donate some,” he wrote to the Free Press. “Any idea where I would begin?”

More: Michigan flood victims feel angry, betrayed

More: Floodwaters replace holy water at Michigan church

Because of the pandemic, he explained, Michigan Valve & Fitting had to pivot from ordering things for the automotive industry to safety equipment. Now he plans to donate 200 face shields and 3,500 N-95 masks to the flood relief effort, having connected with first the mayor and then United Way.

“Our customers were in need of masks, so we shifted gears,” Maddox, 53, said. “I was fortunate, able to get a (federal) PPP (paycheck protection program) loan to keep my employees on staff. We would’ve laid them off if that hadn’t happened.”

He was scheduled to make the 90-minute drive to Midland to deliver the personal protection equipment Tuesday.

More: Midland church swallowed by floodwaters: ‘It tears a hole in your heart’

More: A small town feels ‘angry’ and betrayed as families try to recover: ‘What the hell?’

More: Michigan’s dam safety unit: 2 staff for entire state, a supervisor, and $397K

365 days

Not only have individuals from all parts of the U.S. reached out, but major companies have responded to local pleas as well as corporate outreach from the executive team at Dow Chemical. 

“For Dow, they’ve not only offered resources but they’re pulling things out of their plants in Louisiana and airlifting them up here,” Holly Miller, CEO of United Way of Midland County, said Tuesday. “This morning, we heard we had run out of gloves for cleanup in our community so they’re bringing that in on the Dow shuttle. … Groups from across the country are showing up with truckloads of hand sanitizer, food, PPE, cleanup kits. Everything you could imagine.”

Now, she said, the crisis teams are working to reach out to all families throughout the region who have been impacted, and document the damage and figure out what families need to recover. The organization is preparing to deploy thousands of disaster relief volunteers from across the state and the country. 

“We’re moving from crisis to working to establish long-term recovery,” Miller said. “Today it may be about getting wet items removed from houses and initial cleanup. Moving forward, we are working to ensure every step of the recovery takes place in the next 12 to 18 months.”

For now, she and her team are fielding calls literally around the clock. A flood in the time of a pandemic means that everyone is on the clock, no longer just working a regular work schedule.

“People no longer hesitate if it’s 11 o’clock and they have a question,” Miller said. “There’s a level of pulling together and leaning into vulnerability that is inspiring. We are all checking our egos at the door for the greater good. We’re serving a much bigger purpose … “

To donate supplies or volunteer, contact

Follow Dwayne’s Dream Team Give Back on Facebook.

Contact Phoebe Wall Howard: 313-222-6512 or Follow her on Twitter @phoebesaid. 

Louisiana cooking

In ‘Dirt,’ Bill Buford Goes in Search of French Cuisine’s Secrets – The New York Times

Bill Buford has had a storied and variegated career, a mix of high and low and sensitive and almost macho — a career that has twisted gently, like a flamed citrus peel destined for a Negroni.

He was born in Louisiana, grew up in California and lived for 18 years in England, where he was the editor of the literary magazine Granta. He wrote a venerated book about soccer hooliganism called “Among the Thugs.” For many years he was the fiction editor of The New Yorker.

In the aughts his attention turned, as did everyone’s in the wake of Anthony Bourdain’s “Kitchen Confidential” (2000), to food. In 2006, Buford published “Heat,” a very good book in which he fell under the Rabelaisian sway of Mario Batali and apprenticed with a butcher in Italy.

Rereading “Heat,” Batali’s #MeToo-era reckoning shimmers on the horizon. In the first few pages alone, he quaffs tequila from a goatskin boda bag and tries to salsa with a drunken woman who promptly falls over a couch. He’s a tornado in search of a trailer park.

Buford’s new book, “Dirt,” is about moving with his wife and young twin sons to Lyon, where he works in restaurant kitchens and seeks to divine the secret of French cuisine. This is a more sober book than “Heat.” It’s as if Johnny Cash followed up “Get Rhythm,” as a jukebox single, with “Hurt.”

So much cooking and eating gets done that Buford’s next book, after “Heat” and “Dirt,” in order to preserve the “Eat, Pray, Love” cadence, should probably be titled “Gout.”

As with good cookery, no shortcuts are taken in “Dirt.” When Buford picks up a subject — be it bread or language or culinary history or Italian versus French food or the nature of Lyon — that subject is simmered until every tendon has softened.

This is a big book that, like an army, moves entire divisions independent of one another. Watching Buford choose a topic for scrutiny is like watching an enormous bodybuilder single out one muscle, on the mountain range of his or her arms, for a laser-focused burn.

This book begins with Buford bumping into (quite literally) the revered French chef Michel Richard, who then had a restaurant in Washington, D.C. Richard is a madcap genius; he prepares a lot of things in tubes, as if he were cooking with the remnants of one of Jeff Koons’s steel balloon dogs.

Buford works with Richard for eight months, commuting back to his apartment in Manhattan. He decides he needs to go to the source, to France. He and his wife, the wine expert Jessica Green, quit their jobs at The New Yorker and Harper’s Bazaar, respectively, and move with their 3-year-old twin sons to Lyon.

This is perhaps the place to say that this book has a blind spot as regards money. Buford and Green abandon their jobs and apparently their incomes and rent an apartment in Lyon that has six marble fireplaces. They order dear bottles of wine in restaurants and consume extortionate menus and take high-priced classes and send their children, when they finally return to New York, to an elite private school.

Credit…Thomas Schauer

I don’t demand that a writer tell me where his or her seemingly endless supply of scratch comes from. But the lack of even vague disclosure, in a book that takes an interest in social class in Lyon, leaves an odd crater. Buford’s story may have some readers skating along the line that separates envy from something else.

In imperfect defense of Buford on this count, when it comes to cooking, he has tunnel vision. In this book’s major set piece, he is taken on in the kitchen at La Mère Brazier, a serious and important Lyonnaise restaurant. Getting the position is a coup. (The chef Daniel Boulud, a friend of Buford’s, is from Lyon, and assists the author at several points.)

Buford works at La Mère Brazier for six intense months, during which time he is frequently hazed and bullied. He’s an outsider in a closed world. Every time he opens a freezer, you half expect someone to leap out and attack him, like Burt Kwouk would do to Peter Sellers in the Pink Panther movies.

He works with hard men (they are nearly all men), as intent on their work as if they were stirring pig iron in a puddling furnace. He’s so obsessed with what’s directly in front of him — turnips to be peeled, sauces to be reduced and built back up, fish to be filleted — that he never mentions the wait staff. Who washes the dishes? The full menu is not described. Buford has us locked in a submarine.

At a time when writers really, really want us to like them, and it’s all a bit gross, Buford doesn’t try very hard. He has a smart, literate, sly voice on the page. But he doesn’t go overboard, for example, when it comes to calling attention to himself as a good father. He’s away from home a great deal, leaving a lot of the messy work to his wife.

He and his family live in Lyon for nearly five years. His sons become culturally rewired. Buford is very good on language (his own French is abysmal, at least at the start) and on societal difference. People in Lyon hit their kids more often than Americans do.

When a cabdriver whacks one of Buford’s sons for putting his feet up on the seat, Buford tells him to never do that again or “I would rip the eyeballs out of his fat sockets and eat them.” Immediately after this, he confesses, “Actually, I have no idea what I said.”

The most important position Buford takes is with a soulful baker in Lyon who is known as Bob. (His real name is Yves. No one knows why he uses “Bob.”) His bread is so good that Buford likens his boulangerie, in which Bob can be found night and day, to the village’s campfire. The secret to his bread turns out to be the local wheat, a topic that leads to the provenance of this book’s title.

I have left many things out. There is an excellent history of cooking in Lyon, with Fernand Point and Paul Bocuse at its molten center. (Buford meets the elderly Bocuse.) There is a closely observed pig killing. Arguments are put forward, surely irksome to some in France, about the Italian influence on French cooking.

You will learn many small details. How to crack an egg. How to painstakingly “pop” the outer membrane from a pea. You will learn that, according to Michel Richard, the French always remove the skin from their roasted tomatoes. “The French never eat it,” he says, “because the skin comes out in your poop.” Buford pays attention to how French chefs are gradualists in a time of wild change, how they carry their roots like a conscience.

I admire this book enormously; it’s a profound and intuitive work of immersive journalism. If I didn’t turn every page with equal enthusiasm, well, it’s a long trip. There will be gray days and sunny ones. Walter Bagehot said some writers are incisors, while others are grinders. Buford is a grinder of a high order.

Buford gets very, very good in the kitchen. His impostor complex nearly vanishes. Late in the book, he makes a difficult duck pie that is “crispy and golden and smelled of butter and braised duck and autumnal apple cider.”

He thinks to himself: “It was a preposterously beautiful piece of work. Damn, I made that. Hot diggity dog.”

Louisiana cooking

Tin Can Kitchen Steps Up to Serve Local Newport Community – Business News Wales

Rogerstone based Tin Can Kitchen, has launched a street food inspired takeaway delivery service,  providing hungry residents of the wider Gwent community with Cajun inspired burgers, sides and dough-it-yourself pizza kits.

Residents of Newport, South Wales, have taken a shine to new takeaway delivery service Tin Can Kitchen, a shipping container converted into a state-of-the-art food kitchen, serving a packed menu of Louisiana style Cajun burgers, New York style thin-crust pizzas, as-well as make-at-home pizza kits and a range of tasty side dishes.

Tin Can Kitchen also cater to vegans and vegetarians and have a separate children’s and gluten free menu.

However, despite early success and a buzz on social media, the business was very nearly shelved.

The terrible situation surrounding Covid-19 almost forced head chef and co-owner of Tin Can Kitchen, Barry Fallon, to postpone the launch of Tin Can Kitchen, which was originally conceived as Newport’s first outdoor food court and bar (subject to planning).

With some help from friends, family and the rest of the Tin Can Kitchen team, Barry managed to successfully pivot and launch the business, despite the uncertainty surrounding the current pandemic, quickly turning Tin Can Kitchen into a takeaway delivery service, serving local residents – hungry for normality – a small taste of the Tin Can Kitchen experience.

“The original idea for Tin Can Kitchen was pretty straight forward.  Drawing from my experience of cooking and serving food in places such as Louisiana, Serbia and Greece, I wanted to provide the people of Newport county with a new place to hang out, eat delicious street food from some of the best traders across Wales, and drink and have fun until the early hours.  Unfortunately, I’ve had to put that on hold for now, but the team and I were keen to do our bit for the local community, so we decided to open a takeaway and bring the street food experience to the people”

As the business grows, more street food-inspired dishes will be added to the menu, laying the foundation for the outdoor food court and bar, slated for a Summer/Autumn 2020 launch (subject to planning).  Once open, Tin Can Kitchen will be home to an array of artisan traders serving street food from kitchens in converted shipping containers.

To celebrate the launch of Tin Can Kitchen, the business is offering customers 20% off all menu items for the month of May.  NHS workers can also benefit from a 20% life-time discount:

“The current pandemic has turned everyone’s lives upside down, so we felt compelled to pull together and do something for the local community the only way we know how – through food.  We’re also in awe of the NHS, so a small life-time discount is the least we could do, to pay our respects and say thank you for all the hard work.”

In line with social distancing measures, all orders are made and packaged in a clean, safe environment; all delivery drivers are instructed to wear gloves, face masks and leave orders outside homes until collected by the customer.

Tin Can Kitchen is open Monday to Sunday, 5pm – 11pm.  All orders can be made via the company website*.  Please visit for more information.

Louisiana cooking

Making a lot of creole food during shelter-in-place? Take this advice – San Francisco Chronicle

It’s a strange thing to have an epiphany in the middle of a grocery store, especially as your cheek is pressed against a shelf while you reach for the last container of some random food thing you think you need in your kitchen.

I speak from experience. Outside of the household essentials we all require during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, my trips to the store lately include a search for Louisiana seasonings. To be more specific, Zatarain’s boxes, which come from the New Orleans company known for its red beans and rice, gumbo, and jambalaya seasoning kits. Zatarain’s seasoning kits are essentially shortcuts to achieving a somewhat respectable creole flavor in a recipe.

As a Louisiana native, I have the bright-red Zatarain’s logo imprinted on my brain. And in the Bay Area’s pre-pandemic time, locating a box was never an issue. Whether it was an aisle in a Target in San Francisco or at Gazzali’s Supermarket in East Oakland (where I had my epiphany), the shelves were always full. Now? Not so much.

At Gazzali’s, as I stretched to the back of a shelf for the sole remaining box of red-beans-and-rice seasoning, I realized rice and beans are pandemic shopping items. As such, more and more people are looking at Louisiana recipes for ways to use their supply of shelf-stable items.

This is fine. But as someone who has cooked and consumed just about every creole recipe, and then taken a long nap, I can say that a bad pot of red beans and rice or gumbo is an unforgivable sin. When the beans are woefully underseasoned or the consistency is just off, a cook has let down the family and friends.

But a cook can learn. Enter Brenda Buenviaje, a Louisiana food pioneer in the Bay Area.

Buenviaje, alongside her partner, Libby Truesdale, has built a restaurant empire over the years based around New Orleans-inspired flavors. The coronavirus pandemic has forced her to shut down or scale back her restaurants, including Brenda’s French Soul Food in San Francisco and Brenda’s in Oakland. The latter remains open for delivery and takeout and continues to draw folks all day who socially distance along the sidewalk waiting to pick up boxes of red beans and rice, slow-cooked and served with smoky andouille sausage.

According to Buenviaje, for those who choose to cook at home, the key to executing a great creole recipe is patience.

“When you start something off, just consider yourself a flavor gatherer. What that looks like is when we say saute or caramelize something until brown, we really do mean cook it low and slow and bring it to those colors,” she said. “That’s where your flavors start, and if you don’t do that, then you doom yourself in the endgame.”

When it comes to the holy grail of Louisiana food, which is red beans and rice, Buenviaje has specific advice.

“Make sure you season throughout. That’s going to get you ahead of the game,” she said. “And if you want your food to taste like deep restaurant-quality food, it’s always going to have more salt, pepper and fat in it than you think it does.”

My personal advice for home cooks concerns ambiance. Play some music while you’re cooking. Create a real New Orleans vibe by playing songs from the Rebirth Brass Band. Or find something by New Orleans music legend Trombone Shorty. Also, in a pinch, any soul or funk music by the Gap Band or Earth, Wind and Fire or even Sly and the Family Stone will work. There’s a rhythm to creating Louisiana food. Music will help you keep the beat.

I accept I won’t be making Louisiana food for a while. Everyone is beating me to the ingredients. I can live with that, especially since Buenviaje has something extra for home cooks in the works: a possible YouTube video series where she will execute her recipes from the restaurant. She plans to hire her son to film it. I may not be cooking what I want, but I am comforted knowing people will soon be making their food as flavorful as possible, with Buenviaje’s help.

“This might make it to where I don’t have to keep repeating myself when it comes to this stuff,” she said. “And people could always just come to the restaurant.”

Brenda’s. Open for pickup and delivery daily from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. 4045 Broadway (near 41st Street), Oakland.

Justin Phillips is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: Twitter: @JustMrPhillips

Louisiana cooking

Funding for 3 SUSLA programs falls short in Caddo Parish Commission vote – Shreveport Times

Funding for three Southern University Shreveport Louisiana programs fell short in a 6-6 vote during a Caddo Parish Commission meeting Thursday.

Caddo Parish Commissioner Lyndon B. Johnson and the other commissioners who were in favor of the funding wanted to provide $100,000 for SUSLA’s nursing program; $25,000 to Milam Street Kitchen Incubator/Community Kitchen; and $15,000 for the Aerospace Technology Program.

When asked why the funding is important, Johnson said in a previous interview, “Southern University is still operating. The nursing program will potentially produce additional nursing jobs needed in this area (in light of COVID-19). MSKICK will provide restaurant entrepreneurs the knowledge to jump start their business whether in catering, food trucks or restaurants.”


A multi-level program, MSKICK, functions as a kitchen incubator/workforce development hybrid to encourage culinary, workforce training and entrepreneurship opportunities to the Allendale/Ledbetter Heights and West Edge communities.

“The purpose of MSKICK is multifaceted,” said Darrin Dixon, director for Small Business Development and Entrepreneurship at Southern, in a previous Times interview. “MSKICK primarily is an incubator for culinary entrepreneurs in Shreveport.

“Louisiana is known for its culinary prowess, but we wanted to give these entrepreneurs the ability to scale their businesses because most of them are operating under the cottage law and have been cooking out of their homes in their kitchens, but it’s just so much they can do in a residential kitchen. So, we offer them the opportunity to be able to utilize commercial-grade space and kitchen to be able to scale their business and serve at a greater capacity.”

Read all about it: ‘Kitchen incubator’ feeds the community as it mentors small culinary businesses

SUSLA’s nursing program

Comprising one school and three departments, the College of Nursing and Allied Health works together to prepare diverse populations for careers within the health professions, according to information from SUSLA’s website.

Among its units are the School of Nursing, Department of Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology, Department of Rehabilitation Counseling, and the Department of Recreation & Leisure Studies.

Created in 1985, the School of Nursing, reportedly is one of the top producers of undergraduate baccalaureate degrees awarded in nursing to African Americans in the United States.

SUSLA’s Aerospace Technology program

An existing training certificate program, SUSLA’s Aerospace Technology program is a training certificate program for students who want to enter the aviation maintenance technology field.

Caddo Commissioner Stormy Gage Watts commented during a previous meeting that the programs are pipelines to success.

More news: Shreveport Regional had more passengers, then COVID-19 hit. What’s ahead at the airport?

In other business, the Caddo Commission also voted 6-6 on a resolution urging the Louisiana Legislature to allow local planning and zoning issues to be resolved by local governing entities.

The matter arose from ongoing issues with rural Caddo Parish Caddo citizens claiming the City of Shreveport’s Unified Development Code, infringes on their property rights.

The Caddo Alliance for Freedom relentlessly lobbied the Caddo Commission to repeal the United Development Code (UDC) that regulates land use in the five-mile area of the parish extending from the Shreveport city limits.

A number of town hall meetings hosted by commissioners, engaging rural Caddo citizens, took place in an effort to hear the citizens out and to see what adjustments could be made.

“Unhappy with the commission’s responsiveness,” in according to information provided in a statement from the Alliance that was posted on the Caddo Commission website, the Alliance went to Baton Rouge.

As a result, state Rep. Danny McCormick introduced legislation that removes the parish out of the jurisdiction of the Shreveport-Caddo Metropolitan Planning Commission.

Language in the bill states its purpose in part, as “to remove the five territory of Caddo Parish from the jurisdiction of the commission.”

With the support of the Shreveport City Council, the resolution opposes HB 697. Commissioners supporting the resolution feel that local governments should be allowed to resolve planning and zoning enforcement concerns without state involvement or intervention.

More: New aviation facility in Shreveport will create more than 130 new jobs

Caddo Parish Commissioner Steven Jackson said no one spoke to the Caddo Commission or the Shreveport City Council about the bill. The City of Shreveport sent a letter of support of the resolution opposing HB697.

The House of Representatives approved McCormick’s legislation. The bill is pending with the Senate.

Louisiana cooking

For the Table: Tangy Shrimp Skewers – – Lone Star Outdoor News

Whether you are coming in from the field or the water, nothing beats the feeling of cooking up something you harvested. From grilled trout to turkey tenders, Lone Star Outdoor News has published some excellent wild game recipes over the last 16 years. We hope to share and inspire folks to get creative in the kitchen.

Tangy Shrimp Skewers

Recipe and photos from Nate Skinner

More and more folks are cooking meals at home, and as far as the kitchen is con- cerned, I’m a big fan of keeping it simple. And when you can combine simplicity with an excellent taste, you have hit the recipe jackpot.

These grilled shrimp skewers are perfect for the season. The ingredients and materi- als necessary to create them will not be hard to find at grocery stores, not to mention, purchasing shrimp allows you to support small, local businesses, like seafood markets, that may be struggling.

The tangy, spicy flavor that makes this dish so great comes from mixing yellow mus- tard and Louisiana Brand Original Hot Sauce together. There’s no fancy, homemade glaze to be made. Simply combine the two until the taste satisfies your palate. Go heavier on the hot sauce to increase the heat, or add more mustard to make it tangier and mild.

It’s springtime in Texas, and seafood is on the menu. Spice things up in the kitchen in easy fashion, and give this recipe a try!

Prep time: 15 minutes Cook time: 20-25 minutes


1 lb. deveined and peeled large shrimp

2 ozs. thick cut bacon



Yellow mustard

Louisiana Brand Original Hot Sauce


Basting brush


Salt and pepper shrimp to taste. Wrap each shrimp in bacon and place it on a skewer. Create the sauce that each skewer will be basted with by combining yellow mustard and Louisiana Brand Original Hot Sauce in a small bowl. Add more mustard or hot sauce as necessary until the desired blend of a spicy, tangy taste is achieved.

Grill on medium heat (300-350 degrees) for 10 minutes. Then, baste each skewer with the mustard/hot sauce mixture and flip. Baste the opposite side of the skewers with the mustard/hot sauce mixture. Total cook time should be 20-25 minutes, or until edges of bacon appear crispy and shrimp appear white.

Remove from grill, serve and enjoy.

Louisiana cooking

Meet The 73-Year-Old Food Entrepreneur Who Calls Herself The Queen of Creole Cuisine – Black Enterprise

New Orleans is known for its signature creole cuisine that is native to Louisiana. The famous style of cooking blends West African, Haitian, French, Spanish, and Native American cultures as well as other parts of Southern states. One Louisiana native decided to use her family recipes to create her own catering service specializing in the regional cuisine.

Seventy-three-year old Mozell Devereaux is the founder and CEO of Queen of Creole, a food catering company serving made-from-scratch, oven-ready fresh pies, brownies, and cookies along with traditional Southern dishes like macaroni and cheese and her famous signature seafood gumbo. After retiring, she decided that she still wanted to work and launched her online catering business. She would go on YouTube and search the internet to learn ways how to structure her business from home and how to prepare her packages for customers.

“I even learned how to prepare and package my delicious sweet potato cornbread that only requires customers to add water upon delivery,” she told Black Business. Devereaux makes sure her fresh meals are delivered safely and straight to your door in an insulated box with dry ice.

She comes from a culinary cooking background; working as an executive chef and she graduated from the Culinary Institute of America in New York. In addition to her education, she brings 20 years of family recipes to her customers through her savory dishes.

Devereaux has also opened four other successful restaurants in addition to her catering business. She also works as a culinary consultant to help other businesses in the food and restaurant industry.