Before John Besh changed the New Orleans dining scene, Donald Link redefined Cajun cooking, and Emeril Lagasse made "Bam!" a universal catch phrase, there was Paul Prudhomme, one of the country's first celebrity chefs, who passed away today at 75.
Thanks to the legendary Louisiana chef, Commander's Palace became a world-renown restaurant and cooks from New Jersey to Mississippi could create Creole and Cajun cuisine at home just by reaching for a jar of his Magic Seasonings blends in their cabinet -- his jolly, smiling face on the label cheering them on.
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During his career he made Louisiana cooking not only a tourist draw by way of his restaurant K-Paul's, but also a national culinary craze. He popularized blackened redfish as a menu item to the point that restrictions had to be placed on commercial fisherman so redfish would not go extinct. He even introduced America to the Turducken.
Prudhomme was also a frequent figure on television with some of the highest-rated programming on PBS where he taught viewers how to make gumbo and jambalaya, and in turn made those dishes part of our American cookbook. Always the embodiment of New Orleans' grand hospitality, he earned accolades as a humanitarian by cooking for troops at Guantanamo Bay and making some 6,000 meals at a relief center to help those trying to put the city back together after Hurricane Katrina.
The Brennan Family who worked closely with Prudhomme issued this statement to Gambit:
"Paul was a joy to work with and he’s been an inspiration to all of us in the food world. Cajun and Creole cuisines crashed in the kitchen of Commander’s Palace in the 1970s with Paul Prudhomme and Ella Brennan and the Brennan family. Prior to that, Cajun food had not been a part of New Orleans cooking. The result was an explosion of spectacular flavors and wonderful cooking that influenced the city, state, country and the world. There’s been no better ambassador for New Orleans and Louisiana than Paul Prudhomme and he will be greatly missed."
We will also deeply miss Prudhomme who filled many of our pages throughout our nearly 60-year history with a passion for good food and good times. Here's to you, Chef.