I was shocked to hear that your restaurant has been destroyed by hurricane three times now. How do you pick yourself up after this to carry on?
We have always endured hardships in this region since we first settled here in the early 1700s and we are a very tight knit group of people when it comes to helping each other out. It is just something we know, that only by the help of God and each other, things will always come together. So you roll up your sleeves and get moving each and every time.
Were you at the restaurant when the hurricanes hit?
I was not here at the restaurant during the brunt of the storm, but arrived right after the storm was safely out of our area.
Have you ever thought about living somewhere else, where hurricanes do not occur?
I do love my home, Louisiana, and I don't think that anything could run me out that easily. Anyone who has ever seen the Atchafalaya basin will agree that there is no place more appealing to the soul and heart, so to answer that question, no.
Had you heard about Jamie before?
Yes. Who has not heard about Jamie and his talent and also his great style of cooking? I was very excited to have an opportunity to work with him. I was really honored that he found it in his heart to come and do what he did for me and my people.
What did you think about his cooking?
His cooking style is very much like my own, in that we both like our fresh herbs and take deep pride in our roots. I enjoyed working and learning about his style of cooking.
At times on the show it looked as if the dinner that you were preparing with Jamie would not happen – was this true?
Not for one minute did I ever think that we would not pull this off! It is not in our nature to fail around here. We just dig in and work harder and that’s just what we did.
How did it feel opening the restaurant once again?
No doubt I felt like I was a kid with a new toy that he wanted all his life because this is and always has been my life’s dream! All the running and craziness till that point was all so very worth it.
It looked like there was amazing community spirit with everyone coming together to reopen the restaurant. Is this indicative of the area in which you live?
Yes, as I mentioned previously our cultural background has been the reason we have kept our heritage alive for more than 300 years. We always come together for each other no matter what the circumstance is. It is our way of life here in the basin.
What is your favourite Cajun food?
I love my rice and gravy. It’s hard to say since I love a lot of dishes, but probably my favorite is turtle etouffee or squirrel cooked the same way. Of course it’s hard to say as there are so many great Cajun dishes
to chose from.
How did you learn how to cook?
I learned to cook when I was very young watching my Dad cook at the hunting camp and was fortunate to grow up in a community that has a small population but has always (since the early 40's) been known for its outstanding restaurants all over our state and America. I started working at the age of 12 as a bus boy and continued to learn and excel in the industry. It is a passion of mine and has been all my life.
I notice, on your website, that you take people on swamp tours. What does this involve and what do people see?
We have been doing swamp tours since the early 80's and have been very fortunate to be Louisiana’s premier swamp tour in the state. It is always an adventure each and every time you go out into North Americas last remaining great river swamp. We have alligators that we have been feeding since they were babies and they all have names and love us as much as our dogs do. But you never mix your dogs with your gators because gators love dogs ha ha! But make no mistake about it, if you want to do something for the whole family it is one of the most breathtaking experiences of a lifetime.
Anything else that you would like to add?
A trip to the great Atchafayala Basin is regarded as one of the top ten things in the world to see before this beautiful place is gone forever with the ever changing planet we live on. If you have seen pictures before you can only imagine how God has blessed us with a wonderful place to call home. Thank you, and look forward to hearing from you soon. As we say here at McGee's Landing, a stranger is only a friend we have never met yet! So we welcome everyone to visit and enjoy our wonderful back yard with us. Thank you from David Allemond, Louisiana's ambassador to the Atchafayala Basin.
For more information on McGees Landing.