Every Louisiana cook who turns the heat up high to make a roux pays homage to the man who changed Louisiana – and American – food and cooking. Chef Paul Prudhomme, who died Oct. 8, 2016. at age 75, inspired hundreds of imitation Cajun restaurants spotted across America like a teenager’s unfortunate skin. But his greatest achievement may be that he taught Americans how to cook, taste and to season their food in a new way.
Through his best-selling cookbooks, nationally televised PBS cooking shows filmed at WYES-TV, a generation of chefs and home cooks learned from the man whose ebullient personality and love of food showed in everything he did. He owned the renowned K-Paul’s Louisiana Kitchen in New Orleans.
The San Francisco version of K-Paul’s Louisiana Kitchen had lines out the door nightly, with waits of three to six hours. Chronicle restaurant reviewer Patricia Unterman asked Prudhomme, who was holding court at a small table, why he’d allow customers to wait so long. He couldn’t answer at first because of the stream of customers coming up to tell him their waits had been worth it. The Chronicle reported that cantina rocker Jimmy Buffett and Mike Nesmith of Monkees fame flew up from Los Angeles for dinner.
His cookbook, Paul Prudhomme’s Louisiana Kitchen, was published by William Morrow and Company in 1984. It was given a Culinary Classic Book Award in 1989 by the International Association of Culinary Professionals. Prudhomme has been credited with having popularized cajun cuisine and in particular Chef Paul Prudhomme made up blackened fish, dredging a fish fillet in a spice blend and cooking it in a very hot cast iron skillet. And then, there was the blackening. It was not from the canon of Cajun cooking, but a technique Chef Paul made up. The popularity of the dish was such that commercial fishing of the species was restricted to prevent its extinction. Prudhomme was also credited with introducing the turducken into United States cuisine.