Paul Prudhomme is a household name in some places, especially post-1980’s after opening K-Paul’s Louisiana Kitchen, which was a French Quarter diner serving the very same meals Prudhomme enjoyed himself as a child.
As an American chef, he gained a considerable amount of influence and did so in a time when the top chefs in the country made their bread and butter, so to speak, by serving nothing but European food. To say the least, serving American food as a noteworthy chef was a risk – a risk that he was willing to take. Some of the greatest dishes he ever served included etouffee, jambalaya, and even gumbo. Outside of Louisiana, no one had heard of these dishes, and whether or not they would catch on? That was a matter of opinion.
A Man of Innovation:
Prudhomme was an innovator, to say the least. He invented many of his own dishes, and even employed a technique that he referred to as “blackening.” Through this method he seared the surface of his entrees until they were black in a white-hot skillet. This became so popular, that many of the traditional Cajun dishes that Prudhomme loved to make became virtually ignored. In 1992, Pudhomme said:
“We had all this wonderful food, we raised our own rabbit and duck, and all anyone wanted was blackened redfish.”
Prudhomme grew up on a farm close to Opelousas, and was the youngest of thirteen children. Due to being the youngest, he seemed to spend a considerable amount of time in the kitchen with his mother rather than out in the fields with his brothers, and over that period of time he learned a considerable amount about not only food, but also spices, and how to blend them to create some of the best flavors we’ve ever seen in the United States.
A Face to Remember:
There was a lot to like about Prudhomme, but many remember him by his bearded face and massively oversized frame which may have set the standard for the ‘look’ of the modern chef. He appeared on a number of talk shows throughout the 80’s, giving instructions to Americans on properly spicing their meals. Over time he expanded his restaurant, eventually becoming a fine dining establishment, and then would go on to publish several cookbooks, all of which became bestsellers. Though his cookbooks gave away many of his trade secrets, no one could ever match his style, nor his Charisma.
Beyond the Kitchen:
Prudhomme took his generosity beyond the kitchen by using his considerable skills to cook for rescue workers during Hurricane Katrina. He assisted by cooking literally thousand of meals for the workers, cooking his way into New Orleans history for the second time in his life.
On Thursday, Chef Paul Prudhomme died after what was described as a brief illness at the age of 75, leaving behind an amazing culinary and humanitarian legacy that few will ever forget.