Globally renowned chef and restaurateur, Paul Prudhomme, credited for popularizing Cajun and Creole cuisine, has passed away. He was 75.
A representative from K-Paul’s Louisiana Kitchen, Prudhomme’s restaurant, confirmed the news. Prudhomme had been suffering from a brief illness, the representative said. The restaurant, which opened in 1979 in the New Orleans French Quarter, has been named after him and his late wife, Kay Hinrichs Prudhomme. The restaurant popularized Cajun and Creole cuisine internationally.
His first restaurant was a hamburger joint, Big Daddy O’s Patio, in Opelousas. Although the joint went out of business in less than a year, he returned to New Orleans to take up odd jobs at restaurants. However, the internationally known chef first became popular as a chef at Commander’s Palace in New Orleans. Becoming the executive chef in 1979, the restaurant became massively famous.
Prudhomme and Kay are known for creating the blackened redfish craze. It became so famous that at one point, restrictions were imposed on fishing to save the species from extinction. The star chef had also written nine cookbooks and hosted five national cooking shows on PBS. According to WWLTV, he introduced his line of all natural herbs and spices. His brand Magic Seasoning Blends and products is sold throughout the United States and in more than 30 countries around the world.
JoAnn Clevenger, owner of Upperline restaurant in New Orleans, said, “He made a mark on classic New Orleans Creole and changed it forever. Classic New Orleans Creole has its roots in many different cultures, but it became stylized — when Paul first started, what he did was shake it up. He inspired people to be proud of their food and their culture.” She further added, “His blackened red fish was influential all over the country.”
Mary Sonnier, a New Orleans restaurateur who worked at K-Paul’s from 1983-88, says Prudhomme “changed the whole shebang” of the world of cooking. “He cooked fresh food and he started using his own seasoning blend,” she said. “He sort of started the whole farm-to-table movement. When we opened every night, we opened with a new menu. We didn’t buy food for the menu, the menu was created based on what food we had.”
Prudhomme’s website also highlights the importance he placed on making food with fresh ingredients, something that he learned from his mother. “From an Indian reservation all the way to the finest, five-star restaurant, Chef Paul learned to love, appreciate and blend the flavors of his younger years with those of many other cultures,” the website says.
He has even cooked for members of Congress, heads of state and international personalities. He has also contributed by giving time to non-profit causes and fundraisers.
Several personalities from the culinary world expressed their condolences at the internationally renowned chef’s passing. Thomas Keller, James Beard Award-winning chef, said Prudhomme will be “sorely missed.” Judy Walker, New Orleans Times-Picayune food editor, described Prudhomme as a “legend,” adding that he was someone who “changed New Orleans food forever.” Isaac Toups’ restaurant, Toups’ Meatery, tweeted, “We lost a culinary legend today.”
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