When I was a child, I wanted to be a chef. I remember that my mom gave me my first cookbook when I was three years old, and I wanted to be like those chefs I saw on television. Some of the names I remembered were Wolfgang Puck, John Folse (who owned a house in my hometown in Louisiana), and Paul Prudhomme.

For the uninitiated, Chef Paul Prudhomme is the reason why you’ve had blackened fish. As a matter of fact, he is the reason why you can find a Cajun or Creole restaurant outside of the Gulf Coast.

It’s with a heavy heart I report that on October 8, 2015, at the age of 75, Chef Paul Prudhomme passed away. He was a major force in changing the way food was cooked and perceived in Louisiana, and he introduced the world to Cajun and Creole food.

chef paul Prudhomme

Photo courtesy of USDA

To understand anything about Paul Prudhomme, you have to first understand something about where he grew up. Paul Prudhomme was born in Opelousas, Louisiana which calls itself “the spice capital of the world,” and happens to be where the brands of Tony Chacherie’s, Targil Seasoning & Butcher Supplies, and Savoie’s Sausage and Food Products are produced and sold.

Opelousas is also the third oldest city in the state of Louisiana, and is where the original French Creoles and Acadians from Canada settled. To this day, the city of about 22,000 people maintains its cultural heritage with zydeco music, Cajun cooking, and by speaking French or Louisiana Creole French.

chef paul Prudhomme

Photo courtesy of travelux.com

“I think the most wonderful thing in the world is another chef. I’m always excited about learning new things about food.” – Paul Prudhomme

Paul Prudhomme started off his culinary career with humble beginnings. He opened his first restaurant when he was 17 in Opelousas, a hamburger restaurant called Big Daddy O’s Patio that opened and went out of business in the span of only 9 months.

After a brief stint as a magazine seller in New Orleans, Paul’s excitement about new foods led to working at a variety of restaurants around the country. He also began developing spice blends that would later be the basis for his own spice company, Magic Seasoning Blends.

chef paul Prudhomme

Photo courtesy of flickr.com

Paul Prudhomme returned to Louisiana in 1970 and was hired as executive chef by Ella and Dick Brennan of the famous Commander’s Palace in 1975, making him the first non-European chef to be employed by the restaurant since its inception in 1880.

While there, he shook things up by incorporating the dishes and flavors of the rural Cajun cuisine into the sophisticated Creole cuisine popular in New Orleans. Four years later, Paul Prudhomme and his wife Kay opened the restaurant K-Paul’s Louisiana Kitchen in the French Quarter.

chef paul Prudhomme

Photo courtesy of Wally Gobetz, flickr.com

“We trust something in a grocery store and assume it’s good. We don’t learn about the most precious thing in life-the food we put in our body. Educate yourself!” – Paul Prudhomme

Paul was one of the first chefs to really take the “Farm to Fork” movement to heart. He grew up on a farm and from a young age, could tell the difference in quality by using fresh, local foods. He applied that philosophy to K-Paul’s Louisiana Kitchen, basing the daily, ever-changing menu on what was immediately available in the area and drawing lines out the door to his restaurant.

The following decades would throw Chef Paul Prudhomme into international fame not experienced by any other Louisiana chef at the time. He published multiple cookbooks including Chef Paul Prudhomme’s Louisiana Kitchen and a cookbook co-written with his 11 brothers and sisters.

Paul Prudhomme gave us the beloved turducken and also created and perfected the recipe for blackened redfish, a dish that became so popular that it endangered the redfish population in the Gulf Coast during the ’80s.

True to his roots of spice capital Opelousas, he created the Magic Seasoning Blends product line that is currently shipped to 37 countries.

To learn more about Prudhomme’s life, achievements and culinary contributions to the world, check out this article from the Times-Picayune.

“I’m just here and I’m doin’ the best I can. If you don’t understand that, then what can I do?” – Paul Prudhomme

This October we lost one of the greatest chefs of our time. For those who are locals or regular visitors to his New Orleans restaurant, it’s like we lost a family member.

Chef Paul Prudhomme’s contributions will be remembered for generations to come, and I want to thank him for everything that he’s done over the past decades to truly revolutionize Louisiana cuisine.