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Marcelle Bienvenu
1056 Mimosa Lane
St. Martinville, LA 70582

(337) 394-7674

 

company name

Welcome to my world of cooking!

I was born and raised in St. Martinville, Louisiana, a small historic community on the banks of Bayou Teche in south Louisiana, where good cooking was almost as large an article of faith as the Catholic religion. I happily skipped through life eating freshly baked sweet potatoes (called yams in our part of the country) slathered with homemade butter and drizzled with locally-made pure cane syrup, slurping down thick, rich gumbos made with whatever was at hand (chicken and sausage, freshly-caught seafood from our local waters, and sometimes rabbit or wild ducks) and savoring spicy jambalaya that often contained shrimp, smoked sausage and chunks of tomatoes.

smiling herbs
at the desk

But it was not until the early 1970s, while working on a Time-Life book project, did I realize that what I took for granted on a daily basis in south Louisiana was barely known to the rest of the country. I was eager to spread the good word of our Louisiana cuisine, but I recognized I had to get my feet wet, so to speak, in the differences between Creole and Acadian, as well as the nuances of New Orleans cooking.

Good fortune landed me a job at Commander's Palace in New Orleans when Ella Brennan, the matriarch of the Brennan family restaurant clan, took me under her wings. And thus began a great adventure!

Until that point in my life, most of my cooking experience came from my mother and father. Daddy, the editor and publisher of our local newspaper (The Teche News), was also a Boy Scout leader and an avid sportsman. It was he who taught me how to make a roux (the basis of our local gumbos and stews), fry crispy catfish, cook a Cajun-style courtbouillon, and make crawfish etouffee. My mother, on the other hand, came from a farming family who were skilled at butchering hogs (from which to make boudin, andouille, tasso, backbone stew, hogshead cheese, and cracklings among other things), making butter from the milk of their cows, preserving figs and pears from their orchards, and "putting up" garden-grown vegetables like corn, tomatoes, beans, eggplant and peppers.

cooking

And although Daddy and Mama had introduced me to all the good things (beignets and café au lait, oysters Rockefeller, shrimp remoulade, turtle soup and po'boys) of the New Orleans dining scene, it had never entered my mind that I would one day be a part of the local culinary scene, much less find myself working at one of the finest restaurants in the city!

From Ella and her family, as well as her able staff, I learned the ins and outs of the restaurant business and in 1981 I struck out on my own to open Chez Marcelle, a restaurant housed in a lovely Victorian home near Lafayette, Louisiana. But when the oil business bottomed out in 1984, I shut it down and with advice from Ella, my mentor, I began writing a weekly food column Cooking Creole for The Times-Picayune in New Orleans.

But that wasn't enough to quench my curiosity about the Creole and Cajun cuisines, and again good fortune found me working with Paul Prudhomme, whom I met while I was working at Commander's Palace when he was executive chef there. Chef Paul added yet another chapter in my culinary experience as I watched him tickle the taste buds of every customer that dined at his French Quarter restaurant K-Paul's Louisiana Kitchen.

In 1992 yet another opportunity came my way. Emeril Lagasse, who followed Paul Prudhomme as executive chef at Commander's Palace and who became a good personal friend, invited me to collaborate with him on his cookbooks. Working on the projects gave me yet another insight to Louisiana's cuisines as I watched the Bam Man kick things up a notch in his interpretations of our local fare.

Now I'm on another adventure. Since Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, my life has taken yet another road in the culinary world.

I am still writing my column for The Times-Picayune in New Orleans as well as working on a project with the newspaper to publish recipes readers lost to the devastating storms.

And I'm happy to say that I write regular features for Louisiana Cookin' Magazine, Acadian Profile Magazine as well as for TheForum and CityLife, two Shreveport publications.

I'm also working on several book projects and will keep you posted on their progress. From time to time, I'll be teaching cooking classes, and the dates and places will appear here. In the meantime, I'll be here on this website to give you recipes, cooking tips, vignettes about south Louisiana cuisine, as well as discussing anything that YOU might have to offer.

Grab a cup of coffee or tea and join me for a visit. I think we are gonna have some fun!

MARCELLE BIENVENU

 

 

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