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Interviews with expats

Hungry for Louisiana, Interviews with expats, Louisiana, New Orleans

Blogger Genêt Hogan is raising her kids ‘on a roux’

May 8, 2015

I’ve found my long lost culinary twin.

Blogger Genêt Hogan, who has the vibrant and heartwarming New Orleans-centric blog, Raised on a Roux, and I spoke recently on the phone after discovering each other online. Genêt left her native Crescent City for Atlanta about 20 years ago, where she’s been ever since. At about the same time, this Georgia native moved to Louisiana, where I’ve been ever since. Genêt has been keeping the traditions of the Bayou State alive in her home kitchen and she’s actively documenting them on her blog. It’s so versed in what’s going on New Orleans, you hardly know she’s been in Atlanta all these years. We had a great time exchanging notes about the power of food in defining who you are and how you live.

Here’s another in my series of interviews with Louisiana expatriates.

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Crawfish, Interviews with expats, Louisiana, LSU

Painting Houston in purple and gold

April 22, 2015

Earlier this month, the LSU Houston Alumni Association held an event that speaks volumes about the long arm of Louisiana’s culinary culture. The group met at the Firehouse Saloon to savor 3,100 pounds of boiled crawfish provided by the Boil House at what has become a major fundraiser for LSU. It’s the chapter’s biggest gathering of the year, says President Lisa Bunch, a Slidell native (BS, Psychology) who moved to Houston for work in 1998.

With about 650 members, LSU Houston is one of the most active alumni chapters across the country. As part of my interview series with Louisiana expats, I checked in with Lisa about the Bayou State’s gravitational pull — a theme in my book, Hungry for Louisiana, An Omnivore’s Journey. We talked about what it means when members of Tiger Nation get together to carry out the rituals of home, whether it’s to watch a game or belly up to a pile of crawfish.

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Interviews with expats, Louisiana

Kenyattah Robinson misses po’boys, New Orleans Popeye’s and his mama’s gumbo

March 27, 2015

Like so many people who grew up in New Orleans, Kenyattah Robinson’s life as a kid included a grandmother whose cast iron pots made magic.

“She wouldn’t have to measure anything at all,” he told me recently. “She cooked everything by feel. She would nod off in the living room and wake up exactly when the food was ready. She had this internal clock. Every meal was freshly prepared. There was no eating out.”

Kenyattah left New Orleans to study at LSU, where he earned a degree in Liberal Arts and business, then landed a job on Capitol Hill with then-Louisiana Senator John Breaux. Later, he earned an MBA from Cornell University, and now works in Washington, D.C. for Jones Lang LaSalle as a senior vice president on the Public Institutions team.

A major theme of my book Hungry for Louisiana, An Omnivore’s Journey is the grip Louisiana’s culinary culture has on those who have left the state. As part of my interview series with Bayou State expats, I wanted to pick Kenyattah’s brain about what he missed from Louisiana’s culinary tableau. I know there’s great food in D.C. – some of it made by Louisiana-born chefs and some of it meant to mimic the Bayou State experience. You can even get boiled crawfish in the nation’s capital.

Still, there’s no place like home, so from his K Street office, Kenyattah spilled to me his Top Five Most Missed Foods.

1. Gumbo.

I’m very particular about gumbo. I will not order it from a menu. My mom makes a really mean gumbo and I usually bring some back to D.C. with me. It’s seafood with crab and shrimp. She also throws in pieces of sausage for flavor. No tomatoes. That’s wrong. That’s for shrimp stew or shrimp Creole.

(Uh. Oh. My prized seafood gumbo has a little bit of fresh tomato thrown in for color and sweetness, a typical Creole gumbo, says Chef John Folse. But I’m not bringing that up.)

2. Po’boys.

Shrimp. Fully dressed with Tabasco, or Crystal, depending on the place. I like those small shrimp — and the bread needs to be right. Crunchy on the outside and soft inside. I usually stop at Parkway when I go home.

3. Red beans and rice with smoked sausage and cornbread.

4. Jazz Fest food.

I go every year and get the crawfish bread and a softshell crab po’boy.

5. Popeye’s.

It sounds crazy, but New Orleans Popeye’s MOST DEFINITELY. It just tastes different. Particularly the spicy chicken. There’s something about the flavor and the crisp of the skin.


Crawfish bread. There's nothing like the kind you get at Jazz Fest.

Crawfish bread. There’s nothing like the kind you get at Jazz Fest. WWOZ

Hungry for Louisiana, Interviews with expats, Louisiana

What expats miss: Suz Redfearn says Jazz Fest & red beans

March 19, 2015

Proving the point that Louisiana expats pine for the food culture they left behind (a theme in the intro chapter of Hungry for Louisiana), I’m doing an interview series featuring transplants nationwide who still miss the food, drink and culinary rituals of the Bayou State. Here are thoughts from my friend Suz Redfearn, an accomplished freelance journalist who left Louisiana for Washington, D.C., in 1998. Comments from her appear in the book.

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