Interview With Cooking Expert Ryan Boudreaux of Cajun Chef Ryan
Ryan, please tell my readers about your cooking background.
My parents always cooked wonderful meals; having grown up on a farm my dad raised tomatoes and okra in the garden most years and would cook those up often. Mom always made wonderful meals and I always told her we should open a restaurant. One summer when my mom was away most days working on her master’s degree in Jackson, MS, I started learning how to cook simple meals. At first, it was frozen pizzas with my own extra toppings and seasonings, or heating up some Banquet Fried Chicken in the oven. Then when I was about 14 or so and watching Julia Child’s French Chef television episode on omelets, she inspired me to get into the kitchen, about 2 dozen eggs later and a big mess I perfected the omelet flip. Family and friends began requesting that I prepare omelets for them, and then I became known for the variety and creativity in the kitchen as a teenager.
After 2 ½ years at college, I dropped out of LSU in Baton Rouge, LA and returned to New Orleans, then I did some exterior residential painting and worked as a sub-contractor renovating houses in the area while I decided my next move. One day one her way home from work my mom was listening to a local radio talk show host interviewing culinary instructors from the New Orleans Regional Institute apprenticeship program. After a phone call, we got a pamphlet in the mail and I pursued with interest a new course of action, cooking school. Worked 4 or 5 days a week and attended culinary classes on 1 day a week, and compensation in an apprenticeship level at an approved hotel or restaurant. The program was a part of the American Culinary Federation’s (ACF) apprenticeship training and sponsored by the local NOLA chapter, which at the time was known as Les Chefs de Cuisine de la Louisianne. My first stint was working the banquets kitchen at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in the CBD near the Superdome. Eventually, the apprenticeship program moved to Delgado Community College main campus just a block away from the original location at the Institute. I finished my 3-year apprenticeship at the Columns Hotel on St. Charles Avenue, in Uptown area of the city.
What inspired you to start cajunchefryan.rymocs.com/blog2/?
I wanted to document my 18+ years in the restaurant industry, and the blog format seemed like the best way to document and share my dozens of notebooks, manuals, and recipe index, and many preparations that are embedded in my brain. The blog has evolved into more than just a way for me to preserve my culinary heritage, it has turned into a shared community along with dozens of other food bloggers, much more than I had ever expected.
What's your favorite meal to prepare?
A one pot meal is always a family favorite, especially my Cajun inspired dishes such as gumbo, jambalaya, Etoufee, shrimp and grits, any of the many crowd pleasing comfort foods that have a timeless appeal.
What camping recipes for kids would you recommend?
One of my favorites is campers stew, because it gets everyone involved in preparing and cooking their own individual meal. For the younger children they require assistance from the young adults, but everyone has a hand in making their own dinner. It starts with folding a foil pouch, then adding in any combination of ingredients they wish such as ground beef patties, chicken breasts, corn, peas, onions, potatoes, onion soup mix, broth, mushrooms, garlic, rice, carrots, and whatever else you can imagine. Then everyone folds and seals the foil pouch, and places it over a large bed of hot coals. After about 15-20 minutes the pouches are flipped to the other side and continue to steam/cook for another 10-15 minutes. Put the foil pouch on the table and slice it open and eat right out of the pouch. This recipe has little clean up and it is a fun individual meal.
For vegetarian campers, could you suggest some vegetarian meals/recipes?
Another foil pouch based recipe that brings me back to the good ole days of campfire cooking is a potatoes au gratin recipe that my parents always made on campouts. It consists of several large layers of heavy duty foil about four feet long and three feet wide. You may need to add several overlapping layers of foil, or crimp together two long sheets of foil. About 4-5 pounds of peeled, and ¼” sliced potatoes, about 4 cups of onions julienne sliced, 1 pound of butter cut into pats, 1 pound of shredded cheddar cheese and salt and black pepper. Rub a thick layer of the butter on the bottom of the foil, and then in the center of the foil add a layer of potatoes in a one foot by one foot square, followed by a layer of onions and then several pats of butter, then sprinkle with salt and black pepper, and then a layer of cheese. Continue with these layers until finishing with the cheese, and then fold the foil to surround the ingredients, and crimping the ends tightly, and then wrap this with another layer of foil to completely seal the potato package. Place the foil encased potatoes onto hot coals and allow cooking for about 30 minutes, then carefully turning over the foil pouch and cooking for another 30 minutes or so. Remove from the coals and allow cooling for about 15 minutes then open the pouch from the top and serve.
Of course, grilled vegetables are so easy to prepare, but one thing you need to have is a special vegetable grill pan or skewers depending on the vegetable. For example thick sliced eggplant makes a great grilled patty, just brush on some olive oil, sprinkle some fresh cracked black pepper, and kosher salt, maybe some fresh chopped basil and rosemary and place directly on the grill on both sides for about 5-8 minutes per side, or until soft and tender. Whole okra can be skewered with bamboo or metal skewers, and then brushed with melted butter or olive oil, seasoned to taste with salt and pepper, and grilled about 4-6 inches above the coals for about 5-8 minutes per side, or until soft and tender.
What's one food you can't live without?
Anything edible! Actually, it is always hard for me to pin point just one style of cuisine or type of food since I enjoy experiencing and cooking a wide variety of ingredients. In addition, learning about exotic ingredients, and heirloom vegetables is quite fun too. I am very excited about the local and sustainable movement with fresh markets sprouting up and the idea of going back to the source with co-ops, Community Supported Agriculture CSA’s and such. However, if I had to say one favorite food I like to eat or cook it would have to be seafood, fresh seafood, and lots of it!
What are some camping dessert recipes you would recommend?
Campout ice cream is another fun exciting preparation. All you need is some ice, rock salt, along with two zip type bags, some milk or heavy cream, vanilla extract, and sugar. Mix all the ingredients well in one zip bag, then put some ice and rock salt in another zip bag, put the mixed ingredients bag into the ice and salt bag and seal well. Toss the bag frequently for about 5-10 minutes then put into the ice chest for about 20 minutes, then repeat the tossing for another 5-10 minutes, then back in the ice chest. Repeat until the ice cream is thick and ready to serve with chocolate syrup, sprinkles, and all the fixings’ for a banana split too if you wish.
Of course, S’mores is always the campout tradition, need I say more?
Here is another one along the foil lines. Take a banana, and make a slit down the top then open up the banana somewhat to form a boat, keeping the peel intact. Then sprinkle some chocolate chips, cinnamon, a splash of lemon juice over all that, and if you wish some mini marshmallows. Then wrap the whole banana with foil and place the foil wrapped banana peel side down (slit side up) on the coals for about 5-10 minutes. Remove from the coals and allow it to cool for a few minutes, then open foil with the slit side up, and enjoy right out of the pouch or scoop out the dessert with a spoon.
If you could learn how to cook any meal from any chef, what meal would you want to learn how to cook?
Does the chef have to be living today? If not, I would love to meet and cook with Georges Auguste Escoffier, the influential French chef who updated the cuisine to modern day cooking standards in the late 1800’s through the early 1900’s. He was responsible for documenting French cooking techniques and procedures and also elevated the profession by instituting the brigade system of kitchen management which still has influences in kitchens today. Many of the recipes that were documented over a hundred years ago do not always translate into today’s ingredients, it would be fun to track down exotic ingredients and recreate a recipe as close to the way it was prepared in let’s say 1906.
A sampling of Escoffier menu items would include such dishes as Glazed Salmon Trout with Oriental Salad with Clam and Cockle Bisque, Carpaccio of Venison, with Pickled Mushrooms and Juniper Sour Cream Sauce, Wild Mushrooms and Leek Terrine with Mixed Garden Salad, Warm Duck Confit with Caramelized Apples, and Seared Foie Gras with a Cassis Jus.
In 10 years do you see yourself still cooking and blogging?
I will cook until I can not longer stand or lift a chef knife or spatula. I will continue to blog about my culinary adventures as long as possible, and I see it continuing to evolve into more exciting opportunities for the future.
Thank you Ryan for the interview. Please visit his blog @ Cajun Chef Ryan