Well, I done did it! For starters, this blog sets into motion what I have been thinking for some time now, and that is to start documenting my 34 years of cooking at home including my 21 years of professional restaurateur knowledge and hands on experience. So, sit back and enjoy the early beginnings of what I hope will be a great place to share my deep culinary heritage, love of food, and cooking at home with my dear wife Monique and son Benjamin.
Over the years I have collected some 300+ cookbooks and food related reference material as well there must be over a dozen or so notebooks, binders, and folders chock full of typed and hand written recipes, procedures and management techniques from the various restaurants and institutions that I worked in over my 21 years in the restaurant industry. And then there are the family favorites that I must say are becoming a lost legacy as the years go by, another project is to capture those recipes and preserve them for future generations.
How it all started?
Both my mom and dad, Joe and Martha Boudreaux, enjoyed cooking at home, both of them came from families that cooked at home! Heck my dad grew up on a farm in south central Louisiana in Acadia Parish, they grew and raised most of the food they ate. With a name like Boudreaux you better know how to make a roux and a gumbo or two! Rice and soybeans were big crops for them, and chickens, pork, rabbit, and deer were their major protein sources. In New Orleans my dad would grow vegetables for many years in the back yard and he was known for his Creole tomatoes and okra. He used to make batches of Fried Green Tomatoes that would melt in your mouth. And my mom used to make the best Drunken Shrimp with French Bread for dipping. I can remember them both making batches of fried oysters in the electric skillet or frying up fresh corn tortillas for homemade tacos. I also remember with fondness a Garlic Roasted Pork that my mom used to make quite often that was to die for, tender and juicy garlic roasted pork loin with a spicy sauce made from Pickapeppa Sauce. Oh, and she made with Eggplant and Beef a dish that melt in your mouth, some of the best eatin’ on the planet. I used to tell them often “we need to open up a restaurant with all this good food you are cooking!” And her pat answer was always “that’s hard work and you can open one when you get older.” And that’s just what I eventually did!
I started out my cooking curiosity by taking frozen Jeno’s Pizzas and piling on custom toppings like mushrooms, black olives, Italian seasoning, extra pepperoni slices, and extra cheese. My pizza combinations varied, but this started my early days of cooking at home in the pre-teen years. During the summer of 1974 I was 12 years old and staying at home getting bored and having not much to do. I was watching The French Chef Julia Child on the local PBS station WYES channel 12 in New Orleans and enjoyed the 30 minute cooking lessons. One morning Julia Child spent the entire show demonstrating the techniques and varieties of making French omelette’s. I was fascinated with how she mixed up the eggs with water and not milk, and added some parsley, salt and pepper, and stired it up just a bit with a fork, but not too much. She also demonstrated how to make the flip and then the tri-fold technique. I was so motivated after the airing of that show I immediately went into the kitchen and proceeded to break about 2 dozen eggs before I perfected the flip technique. Later that day and after confessing to my mother what happened to all the eggs I soon became known for my omelet making, especially as I continued to perfect them on most weekend mornings. Through the years I also cooked omelets for friends at their houses and started a tradition of making various combinations including Western, Ham and Cheddar, Cream Cheese and Chive, Smoke Oyster, Shrimp and Cheddar, and even some that were not so popular like Sauerkraut and Swiss.
My mom and I also started an appreciation for making fresh baked breads, she used to make this fabulous Dilly Bread that was out of this world, and it started in motion my fascination with yeast and whole wheat flour. We would make many and varied whole wheat and whole grain breads. Yeast became a passion for me as I was awestruck with the organism and how it worked and its lengthy history going back to the Roman empire. In the late 1970’s our passion for fresh bread ultimately landed my dad in the hospital for a 10 day stay due to horrible and crippling stomach pains. Eventually after a biopsy of the intestines did the doctors determine that he suffered from Celiac Disease, or more commonly known today as an allergy to gluten. Gluten is the combination of starches that make up 80% of the protein found mainly in wheat, rye, and barley. It is also the building block that holds together wheat products including breads, pastas, beers, grain alcohols, and other wheat based products. This was my first experience with a food related allergy and restricted diets.
Getting Paid to Cook….oh boy!
My professional culinary experience range includes working in the kitchens of major and minor hotels, 5 star restaurants, a private law firm dining room, a catering company, a health food restaurant, a franchise chain themed Cajun restaurant and a Mexican restaurant, health clubs, country clubs, hospitals, and my own restaurant Boudreaux’s.
In my 21 years of professional restaurant experience I started out as an apprentice at the Hyatt Regency Hotel New Orleans, LA. I enrolled in the Culinary Apprenticeship Program at the New Orleans Regional Technical Institute in the spring of 1983 and started the apprenticeship in the fall working downtown at the Hyatt Hotel banquets department. I can remember interviewing with Chef Kurt Wolf and having no previous experience other than cooking at home, Chef Wolf asked me if I had ever prepared meals for a large number of people.
I had just returned from my 2 1/2 month solo bicycle tour in the American southwest and related my story about how I prepared a meal for about 25 people at the Durango Youth Hostel. I had told the director of the hostel that I was going to attend culinary school upon my return to New Orleans and he was excited to hear it and then encouraged me to prepare a meal and might even make some money at it too! So I pulled the ingredients together and made a large batch or two of Eggplant Parmesan and a huge Garden Salad, some of the ingredients came from a garden that the youth hostel maintained. By the way, I weeded the garden one day in lieu of paying rent for a few days. I also cleared about $50.00 from of the vegetarian meal, the folks loved it! And I had fun too, my first professional cooking experience!
So there you have it! My first steps in what continues to be an adventure in cooking and culinary gastronomy. What followed in the next 21 years of professional culinary growth would take up another post and I may just leave it at that for now. However, some of the hats that I wore in those 21 years included the following stations and positions of the kitchens and restaurants: banquet cook, garde manger, saucier, broiler, saute, pantry, sous chef, chef, executive chef, kitchen manager, dining room manager, food and beverage director, food service director, and owner/proprietor.
My current project is to transfer into digital form all the hand written and typed recipes from my note books, binders, and folders. I will compile the recipes into an ebook format and organize them for future distribution in a CD or even DVD media format. I will most likely charge a small price for these ebooks, but have not determined the value at this time, most likely it will be to cover my time and materials.
While I do not get paid to cook these days, I am still a chef at heart and still love to cook at home with my wife Monique and son Benjamin. Monique is my little “sous chef” and Ben has become the “Muffin Man” lately as he will bake a couple batches of them every week it seems. We all love to cook and especially to eat! Happy eating!