Prudhomme in 2008
July 13, 1940|
Opelousas, Louisiana, U.S.
|Died||October 8, 2015
New Orleans, Louisiana, U.S.
|Spouse(s)||Kay Prudhomme (deceased)
Lori Bennett (2010–his death)
|Cooking style||Cajun cuisine, Louisiana Creole cuisine|
Paul Prudhomme (July 13, 1940 – October 8, 2015), also known as Gene Autry Prudhomme, was an American celebrity chef whose specialties were Creole and Cajun cuisines, which he was also credited with popularizing. He was the chef proprietor of K-Paul's Louisiana Kitchen in New Orleans, and had formerly owned and run several other restaurants. He developed several culinary products, including hot sauce and seasoning mixes, and wrote 11 cookbooks.
The youngest of 13 children, Prudhomme was raised on a farm near Opelousas, the seat of Saint Landry Parish, Louisiana. His father Eli Prudhomme, Jr., was a farmer, but the family struggled to make ends meet during Prudhomme's childhood. Prudhomme was named Paul on his birth certificate as a priest thought he should have the same name as a saint, but he instead went by the name Gene Autry Prudhomme during his youth.
Prudhomme opened his first restaurant in Opelousas in 1957, a hamburger restaurant called Big Daddy O's Patio. The restaurant went out of business in nine months, which also saw the end of his first marriage. He became a magazine seller initially in New Orleans, and afterwards several restaurant jobs took him around the country. During this period he began creating his own spice mixes and giving them away to customers. In 1970, he moved back to New Orleans to work as a sous chef at Le Pavillon Hotel. He left after a short while to open Clarence Dupuy's restaurant Maison du Puy. While there, he met his second wife, Kay Hinrichs, who worked at the restaurant as a waitress. In 1975, Prudhomme left to become the first, American-born executive chef at the restaurant Commander's Palace under Richard Brennan, Sr. Chef Paul turned the unsuccessful Garden District restaurant into a world-class destination for food.
In 1979, he and his wife, Kay Prudhomme, opened K-Paul's Louisiana Kitchen in the French Quarter of New Orleans. The restaurant was named as a portmanteau of their names, with Paul working as head chef and Kay as restaurant manager. For a while he attempted to operate the restaurant while still working at Commander's Palace, but the demand in his new restaurant was such that he moved to work there full-time and also hired Emeril Lagasse to work in the kitchen. In 1980, he was made a Chevalier (Knight) of the French Ordre National du Mérite Agricole in honor of his work with Cajun and Creole cuisines.
His cookbook, Paul Prudhomme's Louisiana Kitchen, was published by William Morrow and Company in 1984. It was subsequently 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 blackened redfish during the 1980s, and has been acknowledged for having introduced the turducken into United States cuisine. Such was the popularity of the redfish in particular, and the number of other restaurants who began serving the dish, that commercial fishing of the species became restricted in order to prevent it from going extinct.
During a summer residence in New York in 1985, Prudhomme's pop-up restaurant was reported to the Board of Health which visited the restaurant and closed it before it opened, reporting 29 violations of the city's health code. Prudhomme ignored the order and opened the restaurant anyway, resulting in the Board of Health threatening Prudhomme with time in jail if he continued to operate the restaurant. The city's mayor Ed Koch appeared with Prudhomme at the restaurant to declare an end to what the media reported as the "Gumbo war". The restaurant was quite successful during the five weeks it was open, with lines sometimes reaching four blocks long. Four years later he opened a permanent restaurant in New York City at 622 Broadway, and again had queues for the restaurant of up to two hours.
In 1992, he was charged with possession of a weapon while trying to board a plane at Baltimore–Washington International Airport after leaving a loaded revolver in his carry-on luggage. He later released a press statement saying that he had forgotten it was in the bag. He made a guest appearance at Le Cordon Bleu cooking school in Paris, France, in October 1994.
In 2004, he traveled to Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba, along with 4,000 pounds (1,800 kg) of food and seasonings to cook for the troops stationed there. Following Hurricane Katrina in August 2005, Prudhomme was forced to close his restaurant. During the restoration efforts, he cooked for free at a relief center for the military and residents staying in the French Quarter; at one point his team cooked over 6,000 meals in ten days. He reopened the restaurant during the following October; the premises were not extensively damaged by the storm. Bon Appétit awarded Prudhomme their Humanitarian Award in 2006 for his efforts following the hurricane.
After his death in 2015, Prudhomme's personal library of nearly 600 cookbooks, food reference books and technical books on food science were donated to John and Bonnie Boyd Hospitality and Culinary Library, affiliated with the Southern Food and Beverage Museum.
Along with being a chef, Prudhomme launched a range of products called Chef Paul Prudhomme Magic Seasoning Blends. The line includes his signature Blackened Redfish seasonings. The products are sold throughout the U.S. and in over 30 countries worldwide. In 1986, he released two volumes of a "video cookbooks" on VHS, titled Chef Paul Prudhomme's Louisiana Kitchen.
In 1986, Prudhomme's wife, Kay, was diagnosed with lung cancer. She died some seven years later on December 31, 1993.
Prudhomme had a long running issue with his weight, resulting in him working from an electric wheelchair on occasion. In order to lose weight, he wrote his 1993 cookbook, Chef Paul Prudhomme's Fork in the Road, which he deliberately avoided marketing as a low fat cookbook in order to prevent customers from being put off by the premise after testing the recipes at K-Paul's Kitchen in New Orleans.
In March 2008, Prudhomme was grazed by a .22-caliber stray bullet while catering the Zurich Classic of New Orleans golf tournament. He at first thought a bee had stung his arm, required no serious medical attention, and within five minutes was back to cooking for the golf tournament. It was thought to have been a falling bullet.
Prudhomme died in New Orleans on October 8, 2015, after a brief illness. He was 75.
Books and shows
- Chef Paul Prudhomme's Louisiana Kitchen (April 1984) ISBN 0-688-02847-0
- The Prudhomme Family Cookbook (September 1987) ISBN 0-688-07549-5
- Authentic Cajun Cooking (1984–1989) booklet for Tabasco
- Chef Paul Prudhomme's Louisiana Cajun Magic (September 1989) ISBN 0-517-68642-2
- Chef Paul Prudhomme's Seasoned America (October 1991) ISBN 0-688-05282-7
- Chef Paul Prudhomme's Fork in the Road (October 1993) ISBN 0-688-12165-9
- Chef Paul Prudhomme's Pure Magic (June 1995) ISBN 0-688-14202-8
- Chef Paul Prudhomme's Fiery Foods That I Love (November 1995) ISBN 0-688-12153-5
- Chef Paul Prudhomme's Kitchen Expedition (July 1997) ISBN 0-9656348-0-9
- Chef Paul Prudhomme's Louisiana Tastes (February 2000) ISBN 0-688-12224-8
- Chef Paul Prudhomme's Always Cooking (January 2007) ISBN 0-9791958-0-2
- Louisiana Kitchen: Vol. 1: Cajun Blackened Redfish (October 1986)
- Louisiana Kitchen: Vol. 2: Cajun & Creole Classics (October 1990)
- Biography: Paul Prudhomme: Cajun Sensation (December 2009)
- Fork In The Road (26 episodes, 1995)
- Fiery Foods (26 episodes, 1996)
- Kitchen Expedition (26 episodes, 1997)
- Louisiana Kitchen (26 episodes, 1998)
- Always Cooking (26 episodes, 2007)
Prudhomme also hosted short segments called The Magic of Chef Paul which was syndicated to news stations across the country. Each segment ended with his catchphrase, "Good cooking, good eating, good loving!"
- Anderson, Brett (June 12, 2005). "Paul Prudhomme: An introduction to an American culinary legend". The Times-Picayune. Retrieved September 26, 2012.
- Rowe, Ann (2015-10-24). "The joy of jambalaya: Paul Prudhomme king of Cajun cooking, died on October 8th, aged 75". The Economist. Retrieved 2015-10-24.
- Geraci, Victor W (2011). Icons of American Cooking. Santa Barbara, Calif.: Greenwood. pp. 196–203. ISBN 978-0-313-38133-1.
- Chef Prudhomme grazed by bullet at Zurich Classic reprinted by Golf Magazine online from AP News Accessed online October 8, 2015
- Dosti, Rose (January 7, 1992). "The spicy life of Cajun kitchen guru Paul Prudhomme". The Bulletin. Retrieved September 25, 2012.
- Flettrich, Terry (May 27, 1982). "Plain New Orleans Restaurant Offers Exciting Cajun and Creole Cuisine". The Palm Beach Post. Retrieved September 25, 2012.
- Walker, Judy (April 4, 2012). "John Besh cookbook wins IACP award; Paul Prudhomme's declared a classic". The Times-Picayune. Retrieved September 25, 2012.
- Johnson, Colin (August 17, 1986). "Cajun cooking Sparks Redfish Revolution". The News-Journal. Retrieved September 26, 2012.
- "Louisiana Bans Commercial Catching of Redfish". The New York Times. January 20, 1988. Retrieved September 26, 2012.
- Burros, Marian (March 18, 1998). "The Heat Is On; Hot sauces are burning their way across America". The New York Times. Retrieved September 26, 2012.
- "American Excess: Imagine Thanksgiving Without It". Minnesota Public Radio News. November 18, 2010. Retrieved September 26, 2012.
- "Gumbo war". The Leader-Post. July 31, 1985. Retrieved September 25, 2012.
- Brady, James (July 31, 1985). "In the kitchen with Paul". The Lewiston Journal. Retrieved September 25, 2012.
- "Cajun chef in a stew over codes". Lawrence Journal-World. July 24, 1985. Retrieved September 26, 2012.
- O'Neill, Molly (August 17, 1989). "Jambalaya Passion Feeds Lengthy Lines on Broadway". The New York Times. Retrieved September 26, 2012.
- "Weapon leads to airport arrest". Gadsden Times. September 17, 1992. Retrieved September 26, 2012.
- "'Chef Paul' wows French at food show". Lawrence Journal-World. November 1, 1994. Retrieved September 26, 2012.
- "Famous cajun chef to cook for troops". The Albany Herald. October 14, 2004. Retrieved September 26, 2012.
- "Paul Prudhomme aids Katrina victims". MSNBC. September 21, 2005. Retrieved September 25, 2012.
- Leider, Polly (February 11, 2009). "Paul Prudhomme's Mardi Gras Menu". CBS News. Retrieved September 25, 2012.
- Moskin, Julia; Severson, Kim (September 7, 2005). "New Orleans Chefs Worry, but Cook". The New York Times. Retrieved September 26, 2012.
- "Paul Prudhomme personal cookbook collection donated to food library". WWL TV. November 4, 2015. Retrieved November 4, 2015.
- "Paul Prudhomme Inducted". culinaryhalloffame.com.
- Clair, Jane (November 27, 1986). "Cook Up A Special Gift For Every Taste". The News-Journal. Retrieved September 26, 2012.
- Plaisance, Stacey (February 9, 2007). "New Orleans not about to jump on the trans-fat ban wagon". Moscow-Pullman Daily News. Retrieved September 26, 2012.
- Burros, Marion (October 20, 1993). "Chef Paul Prudhomme discovers low fat cooking". The Times-News. Retrieved September 26, 2012.
- "Prudhomme grazed by bullet during tent set-up at golf event". ESPN. March 26, 2008. Retrieved September 25, 2012.
- "Celebrated chef Paul Prudhomme grazed by bullet at golf event in Louisiana". USA Today. March 26, 2008. Retrieved September 25, 2012.
- Massa, Dominic (October 8, 2015). "Superstar chef Paul Prudhomme dies at 75". WWL-TV Eyewitness News. Retrieved October 8, 2015.
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