Louisiana cooking

Rural fires claim lives of three Louisiana seniors – Shreveport Times

A third rural north Louisiana resident has succumbed to a home fire in recent days, according to a release of the Louisiana State Fire Marshal’s office.

A 60-year-old physically disabled Converse man died Thursday in his home on Hwy. 174 following an 8 p.m. blaze that remains under investigation. An autopsy by the Sabine Parish Coroner’s Office will determine identification of the individual along with his official cause of death. 

The bed-bound victim was allegedly using an oxygen machine while smoking, according to the SFM release. The investigation has thus far indicated the fire’s origin was with the oxygen machine after which it spread quickly through the structure. 

The man’s wife attempted to rescue him, but smoke and flames kept her from doing so.

At approximately 8 a.m. on Aug. 4, 87-year-old Eleanor Gill, who lived in the 100 block of Wood Street in Campti, succumbed to a fire in the bedroom of her home. The cause of that blaze hasn’t been determined, but no smoke alarms were found in the home. Her identification was determined by the Natchitoches Parish Coroner’s Office. The fire was not considered suspicious, according to the SFM.

An Oak Grove man in his 60s died in a house fire Aug. 5 and the cause of that blaze is undetermined. 

State Fire Marshal H. “Butch” Browning asked residents to be vigilant of the fire hazards in their homes. 

“Some of the most common fire causes we see in our investigations are smoking-related and cooking-related, both totally preventable,” Browning said. “We urge residents to consider basic safety steps like remaining in the kitchen when cooking and conducting any smoking activities outside of the home in an environment that is free from flammable materials. 

“Fires can be avoided and lives saved by following these simple safety tips.”

Louisiana cooking

Take a look! More than ‘meats’ the eye at local BBQ emporium –

This is one in a series of articles in the feature called “Let’s Eat” which focuses on the local food and dining scene. This time we touch base with Lou Dawg’s Southern on Main Street West in North Bay.

Lou Dawg’s owner Ryan Ivy is settling into the new normal this summer, along with the rest of us.

The BBQ joint has had an up and down ride since it had just opened, was getting its feet under it and then faced the COVID pandemic. Unlike others who found it was possible to do curb-side and take out only, Ivy closed shop entirely for a few months, finally re-opening in early July. 

“The time was right and we’re glad to be back,” he says.

Lou Dawg’s prides itself on being a true authentic BBQ eatery – meaning it has meat smokers running near 24 hours a day on-site, as well as the infamous “low & slow” cooking methods and commitment to consistency in their sauces that would rival a pharmaceutical company’s quality control.

One dish that’s getting noticed is their chicken wings. “Our wings are smoked first, then fried. No breading or anything like that, just smoke them full of flavour and then fry and crisp them up,” adds Ivy.

Another smash hit with diners is their deep-fried mac and cheese, which comes in pre-formed balls, fried to perfection. “We can hardly keep them in the kitchen. They’re a wonderful little cheesy-ball staple and people love them.”

Ivy says their signature ribs use the St Louis approach which allows for big meaty individual ribs, because it uses an overall larger cut of the rack of ribs to begin with, followed by long periods of time in the smoker for flavour and tenderness. He explains that in the United States, different areas have different styles of BBQ – for example, Texas is big on salt & pepper rubs, while the Carolinas have more vinegar’s in their sauces and in Louisiana they go for a Creole influence.

One part of their menu that’s been a huge hit is the veggie and vegan section.

“it’s all about the vibe of inclusivity. You don’t have to be a meat-eater to enjoy hanging out here. Some people are trying it out for the first time and loving it. Others cannot believe that it is not meat,” explains Ivy.

“That’s because we didn’t just throw a few veggie and vegan options on the menu as an afterthought, We didn’t want middle of the road options, we wanted great options. We pay just as much attention to these items as the meat items,” he adds.

For example, to replace pulled pork, they found jackfruit to be the perfect solution.

“Jackfruit is in the durian family. It’s large, spikey and ugly. We take off the exterior, and the fruit comes out in small pods, almost like strands simulating pulled pork. We carefully season it the same way and use the same sauces. You’re getting genuine BBQ when you et it,” explains Ivy.

Lou Dawg’s Southern BBQ is currently howling seven days a week downtown, with a patio out front at 167 Main West, and a second patio in the rear on Oak Street overlooking the waterfront.

Louisiana cooking

Fire engulfs cooking show star Rachael Ray’s home – KALB News

NEW YORK (AP) — Authorities say a massive fire engulfed cooking show star Rachael Ray’s New York home.

The fire coordinator for Warren County says firefighters responded to Ray’s home in Lake Luzerne, New York, around 5:30 p.m. on Sunday and requested aid from other departments to transport water to the property.

Photos of the house fire show flames bursting through the roof and long plumes of smoke extending into the sky.

Since April, Ray has been filming “#STAYHOME With Rachael” two days a week from the home.

A representative says Ray, her husband and dog are safe, but that the extent of damage to the home is not yet clear.

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Louisiana cooking

Mom Reinvents Herself and Says Her Kids Are Her Inspiration – Spectrum News 1

CUDAHY, Wisc., (SPECTRUM NEWS) — Reinventing yourself is never easy. Kim Grant, 49, says she has her kids to thank for her new catering business, Kim’s Cuisine: A feast for all occasions. 

“My passion is cooking. I love to cook. I love to eat. I love to watch people eat,” says Grant.

Cooking truly is a labor of love for Grant, who’s been a ninth-grade technology teacher for the past 6 years.

After a personal health scare, and with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Grant decided to spread her wings and cook up her own destiny. ​

“Everybody used to eat at my house for free and they were like, ‘Why don’t you just sell your dinners?’” says Grant.

Selling meals started as a way for Grant to supplement her income, to pay for her son’s football fees and her daughter’s college tuition.​

“Here is where I am at the age of 49, starting over, but it’s exactly what I love to do,” says Grant.

A proud southern girl from Arkansas with family roots in Louisiana, Grant says family dinners after Sunday church is what inspired her specialty.

“After we go to church, we go to someone’s house and you have Sunday dinner. It was always soul Food. Dressing, greens, yams, hot water corn bread, ham, fried chicken,” Grant says.

You may wonder what she doesn’t make? Chinese food? 

“No, I make that too. I make anything. No matter how big or small, I can do a feast for any occasion,” says Grant.

“I have a lot of hits that life has given me and I have done a lot of things, but in order for my children to be successful they have to see the example of their mother never giving up,” says Grant.

 If you’re interested in Kim’s Flavorful Cuisine, she can be reached at

Louisiana cooking

First Things First: When you and your spouse have different political views – Chattanooga Times Free Press

When Trump was elected president in 2016, Wakefield Research found 1 in 10 couples ended relationships over their political differences. For millennials, it was twice that. With the next presidential election upon us, many wonder if marriages with different political views can survive the increased volatility of the times.

Susan and Darrell (not their real names) have been married for more than a decade. In that time, they have experienced two presidential elections where they each voted for opposite sides of the aisle. If you ask them how their marriage is today, they will tell you it’s great. This raises the question: How can your marriage be great when you disagree on such huge issues?

Susan and Darrell certainly aren’t alone when it comes to being on opposite sides of the political spectrum. Nearly 30% of married households are bipartisan. In fact, there are some pretty well-known, long-married couples who have navigated these waters for years. Take James Carville, a Democrat, and Mary Matalin, a Republican. Married since 1993, Carville said in “Love & War: Twenty Years, Three Presidents, Two Daughters and One Louisiana Home,” which he co-authored with his wife, “I’d rather stay happily married than pick a fight with my wife over politics.”

That right there is the key. The Journal of Social and Personal Relationships published a study explaining how differences in voting patterns affected the resilience and relational load in romantic relationships during the transition to the Trump presidency. The study found that couples who actively maintained their relationship were better able to “weather the storm” of an election because they built up positive emotions that protected the relationship during difficult times. So, even if you vote differently, actively maintaining your relationship can help you keep feeling emotionally connected to each other and reduce the propensity for stress and conflict.

For example, in an interview with U.S. News and World Report, Mary Matalin shared that she and her husband have many interests other than politics that they enjoy doing together like fishing, cooking and learning about history. “Talking about the impact of the minimum wage is just not something that is high on our list of fun things to do,” she said.

What does this mean for couples who find themselves with opposing political perspectives? Susan and Darrell, along with other couples in the same political boat, said this: “Instead of allowing your political differences to divide you, see it for what it is and don’t allow it to take center stage in your marriage. There are a lot of things we agree on and enjoy doing together. We choose to focus on those things.”


When you find that you and your mate differ on things like politics, these tips can help you navigate through those differences for the good of your marriage:

* Avoid trying to change your spouse. Trying to get your spouse to change will only create angst in your marriage. You can appreciate the fact that they are active in the political process and exercise their right to vote (just like you), which is a really good thing and not something to take for granted.

* Know that every married couple have issues they agree to disagree on for the duration of their marriage. Let politics be one of them.

* Focus on why you married them in the first place.

* Build up those positive emotions that protect your marriage. Compliment your spouse. Speak kindly about them to others. Be intentional about focusing on the things you love about your spouse and your relationship.

* Rein in negativity. The more you think negative thoughts about your differences, the more you teach your brain to think negatively about your spouse. This is a dangerous downward spiral that can take you places you do not want to go.

* Appreciate ways that you are not the same. Differing opinions and perspectives can offer depth and the ability to practice empathy in a relationship.

* Put safeguards in place, such as agreeing that you aren’t going to talk about politics and you for sure are not going to chide your spouse about their political persuasion.

* Remember what matters most. Your marriage is more important than many differences you have, including politics. It will likely outlast any president’s tenure.

* Be respectful. Even when you disagree with your spouse, you can still be respectful.

A pandemic plus a struggling economy and an election all in the same year can equal frayed nerves, anxiety and an unusual level of sensitivity. These things can magnify differences in your marriage that normally wouldn’t be a big deal. Knowing that this moment in time is especially extraordinary and putting some safeguards in place can protect your marriage. This allows you to focus on the goals you have set for your marriage even when you disagree.

Julie Baumgardner is president and CEO of family advocacy nonprofit First Things First. Email her at

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Julie Baumgardner
Louisiana cooking

The Native-American Origins of Gumbo – Atlas Obscura

The secret to whipping up a gumbo that makes your neighbors jealous is in Kisatchie National Forest. At least, that’s what John Oswald Colson and Dustin Fuqua might tell you. Every summer, Colson and Fuqua make their way through the longleaf pines of Central Louisiana until they find a wispy, unassuming tree with mitten-shaped leaves low enough to pick. This is the sassafras tree, and the highly coveted, gumbo-elevating herb made from its dried and pulverized leaves is called filé.

Colson, who is officially recognized by the state government as a Louisiana Tradition Bearer for his filé-making, harvests the sassafras leaves according to ancestral practices perfected over decades.

“When I first started harvesting the sassafras leaves, my dad would I would come out to Kisatchie by horseback,” Colson said in an interview with 64 Parishes, noting that he was five or seven years old during his first harvest. “I’ve been doing this for about 60 years now.”

Fuqua, his friend and the Chief of Resource Management at Cane River Creole National Park, has been accompanying him on harvest trips and learning the traditional way of processing sassafras for more than 10 years. Although Colson is a Cane River Creole—someone of French or African descent in the Cane River area of Central Louisiana—his methods come from the Choctaw, passed down to him through his parents. From tree to gumbo pot, Colson’s filé is indigenous in origin.

“We try to make sure to give credit where credit is due,” says Fuqua. “It’s a shared tradition now, but we learned it from the Native Americans.”

Every summer, John Oswald Colson forages for sassafras leaves to make filé in keeping with Choctaw traditions.
Every summer, John Oswald Colson forages for sassafras leaves to make filé in keeping with Choctaw traditions. Courtesy of Dustin Fuqua

Indigenous people don’t often receive that level of credit, though, in the complicated origin story of gumbo. For years, historians and cookbook authors promoted a story that gumbo started simmering on stovetops after an incident known as the Frying Pan Revolt or Petticoat Insurrection. The legend goes that in 1722 a group of French housewives, fed up with the colony’s bland or unfamiliar ingredients, banged on pots and pans outside the house of Louisiana’s governor, Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville. Bienville foisted the women onto his housekeeper, who taught them what she had learned from Choctaw people about cooking with local ingredients. The women then took their newfound appreciation for shrimp, crawfish, and filé, and incorporated it into the okra-based stews they’d already learned from enslaved people of West African descent, whose word for okra, ki ngombo, is likely the source of gumbo’s name.

It’s the kind of story that is a New Orleans tour guide’s bread and butter, but without any official documentation from that time period, the Frying Pan Revolt is exactly that: a story. It’s a Eurocentric one to boot, implying that the French were the masterminds who combined Choctaw and West African techniques with French ones to create not only gumbo, but Creole cuisine at large. This line of thinking was echoed in cookbook introductions and dominated Louisiana’s culinary narrative for centuries, until food historians began reexamining the evidence and found, more than likely, it was the enslaved people of West African descent, not the French, who were the driving cultural force behind the evolution of gumbo and Creole cuisine.

Native American influence on gumbo remains mostly a footnote, though a peek inside the pot reveals key elements that made their way in thanks to their knowledge and domestication. So if you’re up for a culinary journey, grab a pot, turn on the stove, and make a gumbo with these indigenous ingredients.

Good filé should stain your fingertips.
Good filé should stain your fingertips. Courtesy of Dustin Fuqua

The Thickener

There are three main ways to thicken gumbo: with filé, okra, or a roux, which is a paste made from fat and flour. For a gumbo with an earthy depth and a hint of spice, reach for the filé, but wait until the end before adding it. Cooking filé for too long gives the broth a stringy consistency.

Filé is best when sourced from a traditional maker like Colson. Homemade filé is bright green, pungent, and so fine that it stains your fingertips, while store bought filé has the color, consistency, and arguably the flavor of sawdust, likely because big brands aren’t as diligent about removing the stems before pounding the leaves.

In the past, finding fresh, homemade filé would’ve been a matter of keeping your eyes peeled and ears open in communities around Acadiana or the Natchitoches area in late summer. “Traditional makers would sell the product in repurposed beer bottles and other glass containers,” says Fuqua. “It was typically a word-of-mouth advertisement, a sign on the roadside, a handwritten flyer somewhere around a church, or on a community-store bulletin board.”

Before the pandemic, you could’ve found Colson’s highly coveted filé for sale at the Natchitoches-NSU Folklife Festival every July. These days, your best bet is to look for advertisements on social media, such as Facebook Marketplace in a central or southeastern Louisiana community, and have a traditional maker ship the seasoning directly to you.

You could try to make filé the Choctaw-informed way, but strap in for a labor-intensive process. As devout Catholics, Cane River Creoles such as Colson traditionally harvested sassafras around August 15th—the Feast of the Assumption—but the choice of that date is rooted in ecological knowledge imparted by the Choctaw. (Many filé makers now harvest earlier in the summer, likely due to climate change.) Colson and Fuqua pick leaves by hand, leaving the tree and the branches intact. Taking too many leaves or cutting the branch, as some people do, can kill the tree. Such insensitive harvesting practices have already made it difficult to find sassafras around Cane River.

Once picked, Colson spreads the leaves across the floor of his home, then turns them over a few times for two to three weeks or until the leaves dry out. The final step is to destem the dried leaves and grind them into a powder using a pile and pilon, a traditional mortar and pestle used by Native American groups from across the Southeast. While Colson uses a pile and pilon, filé makers in the United Houma Nation advise that a Ninja blender creates the same quality product.

To outsiders, this sort of attention to historical detail might seem obsessive, but for Colson, Fuqua, and filé-lovers throughout Louisiana, there’s simply no alternative. Not only does it make a superior filé, but it’s also an issue of honor and respect, both for the tradition’s originators and the land.

“That’s how we commemorate the Native Americans,” says Fuqua, “by continuing to use that specific practice and to be as minimally invasive as possible.”

Although potentially poisonous in raw form, cooked pokeweed has long been a hearty green in Louisiana and during pre-colonial times.
Although potentially poisonous in raw form, cooked pokeweed has long been a hearty green in Louisiana and during pre-colonial times. Frank Sommariva/Getty Images

The Vegetables

Many Native American homecooks use vegetables that were popularized by chefs of African or European descent, such as onion, celery, and bell pepper. But if you want your gumbo to reflect what cooks whipped up prior to contact with colonizers, then add a handful of wild greens to the simmering broth.

“When it was just the natural resources, that must have been some stewy dish,” says Fuqua. “There’s a lot of vegetable matter. Whatever gumbo derived from, in the pre-contact period it was more like gumbo z’herbes.”

Gumbo z’herbes, also known as “green gumbo,” was made famous by Leah Chase, the chef and civil-rights activist behind the iconic Dooky Chase Restaurant in New Orleans. Her recipe features nine different types of greens, including mustard greens, collard greens, and turnip greens.

Rhonda Gauthier, a member of the Choctaw-Apache Tribe of Ebarb and an authority on Native American foodways in Northwest Louisiana, has been making “green gumbo” with her family since before she even knew what green gumbo was.

“I worked a long time around the Creole people,” says Gauthier, a clerk at Northwestern State University’s Creole Heritage Center. “The Creole women would talk about making green gumbo. I didn’t know what they were talking about.”

One day she asked her friend how she made the dish, only to realize that her family had been making a similar stew for years using greens from their garden.

While mustard greens, collard greens, cabbage, and other leafy vegetables are today’s go-to gumbo additions for chefs of all heritages, Native Americans in Louisiana’s pre-contact period harvested and ate pokeweed (Phytolacca americana), a wild green that’s ready to eat in spring. Also known as poke salad, poor Louisianans continued to harvest and eat pokeweed out of economic necessity well into the 1900s. Its popularity lives on in the state thanks to the Blanchard Poke Salad Festival, Tony Joe White’s 1969 hit “Polk Salad Annie,” and good old fashioned culinary nostalgia.

The inclusion of pokeweed into gumbo is an unusual choice, but it’s not unheard of. While you won’t find the leafy green in grocery stores, it grows wild across North America. To add some to your gumbo, take a walk along fences or pastures and keep an eye out for a plant with oval-shaped leaves, red stems, and a towering height. Consult a guide such as iNaturalist before harvesting, and be sure to pick the leaves in spring when they’re tender and least toxic. In its raw form, pokeweed is toxic, so boil the leaves three times—tossing out the water after each boil—before adding them to the gumbo pot. But since the berries are poisonous and the health risks are real, it’s a good idea to be cautious and seek out someone with experience when you make your first pokeweed-filled gumbo.

The Protein

The final gumbo component is the choice of protein. Some people swear by chicken and sausage, while others claim that gumbo fortified with shrimp or crawfish is the only way to go. If you toss a few pounds of shellfish into your cooking pot, you’ll find yourself in the company of both contemporary and pre-contact Native Americans, who were enjoying Louisiana’s aquatic bounty before Europeans and Africans arrived, then imparted their knowledge of the crustaceans to the colonizers.

The United Houma Nation, a state-recognized tribe along Louisiana’s southeastern coast of 17,000 members, has been harvesting shrimp since the Houma people first moved to the region in the 1800s. Many members still work in the shrimping industry, though cheap imports, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, and lack of federal recognition have all made it difficult for them to thrive.

Janie Luster, a cultural preservationist and member of the United Houma Nation, has perfected her tribe’s traditional filé gumbo recipe after many years of cooking demonstrations at festivals and in the New Orleans French Quarter. The recipe calls for shrimp as the protein, naturally.

“We don’t make a roux, which is the unique thing,” says Luster, referencing the flour and fat gumbo base popularized by Cajuns. “We start it off by browning the onions. The thickening agent is the sassafras, or the filé.”

She notes that the smell of the onions browning would attract tourists from across the Quarter and that even the biggest gumbo critics couldn’t resist the traditional Houma dish.

You can find more photos of Colson's foraging on Instagram under the hashtag #sassafrassociety.
You can find more photos of Colson’s foraging on Instagram under the hashtag #sassafrassociety. Courtesy of Dustin Fuqua

Houma Indian Filé Gumbo Recipe

Courtesy of Janie Luster

3 lbs shrimp
2 Tbsp filé
1 large onion, diced
3 cloves of garlic
½ cup diced celery
½ cup diced bell peppers
¼ cup parsley
Creole seasoning to taste
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
3 qts water

In a large pot, warm the vegetable oil on medium-high heat. Add the onions and sauté them until they’re lightly browned. Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant. Gradually mix in the shrimp, cooking until they’re pink. Stir in the celery and bell peppers, then cook for 3 to 5 minutes. Add the water, bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add Creole seasoning and parsley, then turn off the heat. Add the filé and stir. Put the pot lid on and let it sit for a few minutes. Serve over rice. Sprinkle more filé on top as desired.

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Louisiana cooking

Wine & Design: At Home in a Pandemic – Wine Spectator

With social distancing guidelines still firmly in place as COVID-19 roils the country, home has taken on an outsize role for millions of Americans. New Orleans’ Tory and Britt McPhail are no exceptions.

The couple experienced a roller coaster of change when the pandemic hit. Tory, executive chef of the iconic Commander’s Palace, a winner of Wine Spectator’s Grand Award, clearly recalls March 16, the day Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards ordered restaurants to limit their service to takeout and delivery. “On my calendar in Sharpie it says, ‘All heck breaks loose,’” Tory, 47, says. “It feels like it’s been a year, but it’s only been a couple of months.” The restaurant immediately pivoted to offering curbside pickup in lieu of dine-in service, as well as a new wine concierge program run by wine director Dan Davis.

Britt, 39, worked for nine years as a sales representative for the Louisiana-based wine distributor Wines Unlimited. But with restaurants closed or operating at marginal capacity, “They really didn’t have a need for us,” she says. Six weeks after losing her job, Britt was offered a role at a combination deli and wine retail location of Martin Wine Cellar, a sister business to Wines Unlimited. “I guess they were like, ‘Your husband’s a chef—you can cook,’ which I can, but it’s a secret. Nobody is supposed to know,” she laughs. “I learned the entire kitchen in about three weeks, and now I’m on the floor selling wine three days a week, in the kitchen two days.”

The McPhails don’t take their new normal for granted. “Not everyone is in a good situation right now, whether they need food, or they can’t go to school and count on that meal, or they don’t have a job. So we’re very lucky,” Britt reflects. Tory adds, “I’ve gotten used to being very open-minded. We all went through Hurricane Katrina together, and we said, ‘Look, that’s never going to happen again in our lifetime.’ But here we are 15 years later, and we’re dealing with something else. So it’s a time of reflection.”

Tory and Britt McPhail holding their French bulldogs

The McPhails with their French bulldogs, Indiana Bones (left) and Sherlock Bones. (Morgan & Owens)

Even as frontline workers with full-time jobs, Tory and Britt find themselves at home now more than ever. Perhaps presciently, they built and designed their house in 2018 as a clean, crisp, beach-style sanctuary conveniently located just 12 blocks from Commander’s Palace, in a new development in the city’s Irish Channel. The neighborhood, not far from the Mississippi River, was built on the storied site of Turnbull Bakery, which lays claim to spawning Melba toast and the ice cream cone. The area was rezoned for residential use under the condition that new construction conform to specifications set forth by the city’s Historic District Landmarks Commission.

The McPhails designed their home in the Greek Revival style popularized in the American South in the 19th and early 20th centuries. The genre draws inspiration from the Enlightenment and, before that, classical antiquity, in homage to the ideals of rationalism and order—touchstones that, amid the chaos of a rampaging virus, now seem especially relevant. Unfussy right angles frame the home’s double gallery, squared-off colonnades and handmade floor-to-ceiling windows, which operate on a historically faithful weight-and-pulley system.

The 2,300-square-foot interior reflects the McPhails’ big personalities. “We’re gregarious people,” Tory says; they love to entertain. Rather than the suggested four bedrooms, they went with two to maximize the living space: 865 square feet comprising an open chef’s kitchen, custom dining nook and living room. The space opens onto a pool and small pool house.

Chef's home kitchen, with center island with bar seating and prep area, stocked with Viking appliances

Viking appliances offer a logical progression from fridge to prep area to stove. “We designed everything to flow naturally,” Tory says. “It’s almost muscle memory.” (Morgan & Owens)

Although the couple isn’t hosting big dinner parties these days, they’ve found that the home’s vibe suits the times. “When you’ve become stressed and really feel like you’re laying everything out on the championship-winning field, you want to be able to have some peace and comfort,” Tory says. “Your home life becomes extremely important.” As a music lover, he has particularly appreciated their surround-sound audio system. Through a phone app, he can pipe a mellow soundtrack into every room. “It just feels like a spa on an early Sunday morning,” he says.

But the McPhails’ boisterous spirits haven’t dimmed, and a wagon-style bar on wheels has helped take the party to the streets. “We’ll break that out of the garage and walk through the Irish Channel at a safe distance,” Tory explains. “Several buddies live within the neighborhood, and so we’ll just load up the cocktail shaker and shake cocktails right there on the sidewalk. You might have St-Germain—elderflower liqueur—and some Cava and some tinctures, or you bring some Chapoutier rosé. Some of the bars have started to open up at lower capacity, but when we didn’t have them, we didn’t really need them.”

The couple also has a visually impactful 425-bottle wine pantry designed by Britt. Their tastes lean Old World: Emidio Pepe Montepulciano d’Abruzzo from Tory’s birth year of 1973, R. López de Heredia Viña Tondonia Gran Reserva from Britt’s birth year of 1981, Philipponnat Champagne from 2002, the year Tory became executive chef of Commander’s. (Looking back, he recalls, “I was 28 and nervous as heck.”) White Burgundy is Tory’s favorite, anchored in the memory of the Chassagne-Montrachet he was served when he was appointed executive chef: “It was a crying moment,” he says. The McPhails’ white Burgundy holdings include a horizontal of Raveneau premier cru Chablis from 2015—the year of their marriage.

Two columns of wine storage, one lined with bottles on wall-mounted wire wine racks, with Britt McPhail in the background walking between them

For the wine pantry, Britt designed the wine columns herself, based on inspiration from Pinterest. The wire racks are from Wine Racks America. (Morgan & Owens)

Chablis has remained a theme for them today, when socializing via Zoom has become de rigueur. “We still have a standing Zoom call with our friend Ivan [Oyco, a producer of Top Chef] in L.A. every Saturday,” Britt says. They have been exploring Chablis together. “He likes expensive white Burgundies, which is amazing, but I also want to show him there are other areas of Burgundy,” Britt says.

Commander’s has launched its own Zoom wine party series, titled “Don’t Stand So Close to Me.” Locals receive a contactless delivery of three bottles of wine, plus a pound of cheese, to taste through with Tory and Dan Davis. “We call it the Zoom that saved Wednesdays,” Commander’s Palace co-owner Ti Martin quips. “Everybody was just sort of ready to be a little silly for a minute, so that’s what we’re doing. If you learn something, it’s by accident.” This being New Orleans, costumes are involved. “Generally, I start putting on my makeup at about 5 o’clock in the evening,” Tory says.

Ever the music lover, he and the team at Commander’s have been cooking for Feed the Second Line, an initiative run by the nonprofit Krewe of Red Beans, which supports the city’s out-of-work, predominantly Black community of musicians, Mardi Gras Indians, artists and other culture bearers by employing the younger generation to deliver groceries and restaurant meals to the elder generation. The team often creates dishes that are almost culinary puns. A recent example was “eggs Louis Armstrong”: trumpet mushrooms atop pickled pork and ham hock cakes topped with poached eggs, on a bed of rice and braised red beans. “Just a little bit of our gratitude for other parts of the community, which we love so much,” Tory says.

Back at home, the McPhails are getting outside as much as possible, gardening, exercising and eating healthy to create some balance. “We’re all in limbo, and that’s the hard part,” Britt reflects. “Every day is different, it really is. It’s something that we can’t control. Don’t watch too much news; you can watch a little bit. Get your little tidbit and get on with your day.”

At the New Orleans Home of Tory & Britt McPhail

Photos: Morgan & Owens
Hair: Alicia Lynch/Style House
Makeup: Jessica Masters/Style House

Britt McPhail, standing at the Galley Workstation prep sink chopping vegetables

The Galley Workstation sink was a wedding gift from Commander’s Palace owners Ti Martin and Lally, Dottie and Ella Brennan. It includes a colander, cutting boards, a pot-cooling rack and an ice bucket.

Dining nook with shiplap walls, bench seating, pendant lights and a giant fork and knife on the wall

In the dining nook, shiplap walls, pendant lights from Pottery Barn and a giant fork and knife from Pier 1 Imports add personality to the space. The bench seating has hidden storage.

Wine pantry area with wall-mounted wire storage racks, open wineglass storage cabinet, prep sink and under-counter wine cooler

The wine pantry comprises 144 bottles’ worth of wire storage racks, built-in columns to hold 152 everyday bottles and, for special-occasion stuff, an 80-bottle white and Champagne cooler and a 48-bottle red wine cooler, both from Viking.

Wine pantry area with prep sink, fish-scale-like backsplash and a signed 3-liter bottle of J. Lohr Cabernet Sauvignon

In keeping with the beachy theme, the wine pantry backsplash, from Stafford Tile & Stone, evokes fish scales. A prized 3-liter bottle of J. Lohr Cabernet Sauvignon Paso Robles Hilltop Vineyard Signature Series 2012 was signed by the couple’s rehearsal dinner guests.

Britt McPhail kneels in front of a tiered set of herb boxes in the garden

The McPhails’ garden has grown since COVID hit. “We added banana plants, cucumbers, zucchini, peppers, all kinds of stuff,” Britt says. She also grows herbs, and there’s a satsuma tree and a fruiting banana plant.

From within the McPhails' pool house, wall-length folding doors open out onto a view of the pool beyond

New Orleans yards tend to be tiny, but the McPhails squeezed a pool into theirs for the beachhouse feel. When she was between jobs during the pandemic, Britt took online courses from within the pool house. Though the space is small, enormous glass folding doors create a sense of expansiveness.

Bookshelves full of recent and antique cookbooks

Tory’s cookbooks, many of which are antiques, are prize possessions. “There’s one section that’s just Emeril,” he says. “There’s Ti [Martin] and Jamie Shannon’s book, international stuff from Spain, Eric Ripert’s book from Le Bernardin in New York City, and Thomas Keller stuff.”

Tory McPhail, standing, and Britt McPhail, seated in a deck chair, drinking white wine on the porch of their Greek Revival home

“Porches are a big thing here,” Tory says. Theirs is the ideal spot for a glass of wine or a cocktail.

This story is adapted from an earlier version that appeared in the Dec. 31, 2019, issue of Wine Spectator.

Louisiana cooking

Favorite Dishes Cajuns Love to Cook – 107 JAMZ

South Louisiana is like no other place in the world. The culture, the music, the heritage, and especially the food is unique to the area, and you will not find these dishes anywhere else in the world.

What is unique about the food here is not only the ingredients but the seasoning and the ways food here is cooked. People are very partial to their cooking utensils, like their burners, cast iron pots, and every good Cajun chef has their own way of doing things.

South Louisiana is the only place where you find certain seasonings and stuff like amazing fresh seafood, smoked sausage, and boudin. Cajuns don’t know how to cook for just two people, by the way.

When we get ready to cook, we are cooking for the masses. We may only be feeding three or four people, but we usually cook for, like, twenty. We love leftovers, and as hospitable as Cajuns are, you never who will just drop in, so you always want to have food on hand.

Now, the flip side of that coin is that most Cajun families are huge. So when get-togethers occur, we are usually cooking for a large family of aunts and uncles, mom and daddy with the kids and the grand parents, and you can always plan on at least two or three friends stopping by. This is why we cook for the masses.

Here are some of what we think are the most popular Cajun and South Louisiana dishes we cook regularly.

Louisiana cooking

Police: Drug dealer had children make crack cocaine, didn’t report 10-year-old’s gunshot wound – WBRZ

BATON ROUGE – An alleged drug dealer and his girlfriend were arrested on a slew of charges overnight after investigators learned he had his small children manufacture drugs and refused to report a shooting that injured his 10-year-old son in fear of exposing his drug operation.

Kevin Evans Jr., 36, and Maegan Toney, 29, were booked into the East Baton Rouge Parish Prison early Tuesday morning.

According to police records, Evans’s children were staying with him at his home on Polk Street when his 10-year-old son was shot July 6.

Police learned Evans dealt drugs from the home, and his son was playing with fireworks in the front yard while Evans conducted an illegal narcotics deal nearby that night. A person in a silver SUV reportedly opened fire on Evans but struck the 10-year-old boy in the hand and leg instead, police learned.

After the shooting, Evans’s children said he told them to “not call the police” because he needed to “hide my dope.”

After hiding the drugs inside of the home, Evans and Toney brought the injured child to the hospital but told staff the boy injured himself and did not mention the shooting.

The child’s mother informed police about the incident on July 8, after Evans failed to report it himself and explained her son was shot while the boy’s father conducted a drug deal.

Investigators later spoke to the children, who said their father and his girlfriend hid drugs in several different areas around the home, each vividly recalling the drugs and hiding spots to officials in separate interviews. Police say each child was able to describe a hole in the kitchen wall covered with duct tape, which their father used to stash cocaine and heroin. He also hid marijuana on top of the air conditioner, according to the children.

Additionally, they described how Evans manufactured the cocaine, including the detailed process of cooking the substance, allowing it to harden, breaking it up, then placing it into bags to sell.

When investigators interviewed Evans’s 9-year-old daughter, she said her father stored large amounts of “H,” or heroin, in a safe along with large amounts of money. She told authorities the safe code was “2836,” and explained the reasoning for this was because when weighing narcotics, there are “28 grams in an ounce and 36 ounces in a kilogram.”

The child also told investigators Evans forced her and her brothers to assist him in manufacturing illegal narcotics such as “cooking” crack cocaine, and “cutting” heroin to maximize profits, police report.

According to the arrest report, each child was able to describe the entire process of “cooking,” bagging, and weighing crack cocaine, along with the process of “cutting,” bagging and weighing heroin.

When the children’s mother told Evans that she was calling the police, Evans and Toney allegedly arranged for a ride and the two grabbed narcotics and a safe from the home before leaving in a dark-colored vehicle, according to police.

The children later told investigators that their father and his girlfriend use the residence to traffic narcotics, specifically heroin, cocaine, and marijuana.

Evans and Toney were charged with contributing to the delinquency of juveniles, second-degree cruelty to juveniles, and numerous drug and weapons charges.

Louisiana cooking

Acadiana Briefs for Aug. 2 – The Advocate

Lafayette natives launch sauce site

It’s kind of like Stitch Fix but for sauces: you answer a six basic questions about what you’re looking for in a sauce, and the guys at will give you a recommendation.

That’s how the Lafayette-based site designed by Hunter Thevis and Reece Merryman works. But unlike Stitch Fix, there’s no subscription model and it’s more than just hot sauce. You’ll find about 100 sauces ranging from small-batch ketchup to fermented kimchili sauce, Thevis said.

The site,, launched Thursday.

“The idea came from a problem that I found myself continually facing,” said Thevis, a 2018 graduate who recently earned his MBA from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. “I love cooking and I love the fact that sauces can represent flavors from around the world bottled up in a convenient package. The problem I found was that grocery stores just didn’t have the variety of condiments I was looking for. After digging into it a bit more, I found that there were thousands of small-batch sauce makers out there that either didn’t have the capital or the marketing chops to bring their product to a mass audience. “

The site will connect users with those smaller sauce brands and other details, including a taste description (a Ghost sauce is listed as “HOT, oniony, vinegary), which foods would the sauce would best accompany it and heat level. It also includes nutritional facts and a biography of the sauce’s maker.

New shopping center sold for $1.365 million

The recently constructed shopping center near the intersection of Ambassador Caffery Parkway and Bertrand Drive has been sold for $1.365 million, records show.

Bradley Beck, a State Farm agent who moved into the Parc Ambassador shopping center at 1105 Ambassador Caffery Parkway, bought the 5,000-square-foot development from Timothy Bradley and Clifton Guidry, according to documents filed with the Lafayette Parish Clerk of Court.

Construction began earlier this year on the development, which also includes a Parlor Salon Nail Studio, which Beck also owns. 

Mixed use development to be built near UL

A Lafayette development group is planning to build 14 townhomes and four commercial suites on property on Johnston Street just west of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette campus.

Boyd Raborn with RAH Homes & Construction and others with Top Tier Development Group bought four lots at the corner of Johnston Street and Whittington Drive for $715,000 from the Ricky Smith Family Trust on Monday, according to records filed with the Lafayette Parish Clerk of Court.

Raborn said the development, to be called Whittington Estates, will feature townhomes in the rear lots and residential and commercial units in a front building near Johnston Street.

Phase 1 will be the townhomes, slated to be two-bedroom, 1 ½-bathroom units that are 1,250-1,300 square feet, he said. Phase 2 of the project will be the executive suites and upstairs residential units, which will be 750-1,000 square feet. 

He is seeking a rezoning of the property before moving forward with construction.

“It’s close to UL, and we wanted to clean up that area,” Raborn said. “Some parents with children going to UL don’t like their children staying in apartments and paying rent. Here they can buy and own their own place with a future property to rent.” 

Construction could start in 30-45 days, he said, and take about six months. 

OM to start ‘Click to StartUp’ video series

The Lafayette Economic Development Authority’s Opportunity Machine will partner with local experts to start the “Click to STARTup” series to bring small business owners and startup founders for a discussion on being an entrepreneur.

The program will feature a library of quick and easy “how-to” videos with information from local subject matter experts that entrepreneurs can access at any time. Content will be loaded to the OM’s YouTube page bi-weekly, director Destin Ortego said.

“The demand for business education content offered through virtual channels has skyrocketed over the last few months,” said Destin Ortego, Director of Opportunity Machine. “Webinars and virtual meetings have been a great way to support our local businesses and entrepreneurs, but we are seeing an increased demand for quick-to-consume, actionable content that can be accessed on demand for convenience and reference.”

The first videos cover fundamental marketing topics such as identifying your target audience, using social media analytics, DIY video creation and email marketing. Local experts will include representatives from Klout 9, Rooted Consulting,, Pavy Studio and BBR Creative are among the first to participate in the series.

Opportunity Machine provides business education, guidance and risk reduction to startup founders and small business owners through training, mentorship, networking, and affordable workspace. As an initiative of Lafayette Economic Development Authority (LEDA), Opportunity Machine’s mission is to grow business and entrepreneurship, create quality jobs, economic diversity and regional prosperity.