The immense pride that south Louisiana folks take in their unique cuisine was on display Thursday in Thibodaux.

I was down there at the invitation of friend and fellow columnist Gibbens Robichaux, for the opening of the Lanny D. Ledet Culinary Arts Building, a state-of-the-art facility to train the 300 or so students at the Chef John Folse Culinary Institute at Nicholls State University.

It was named for a Nicholls grad and tireless promoter of regional food as manager of Golden Ranch Plantation in Gheens, a hunting and fishing facility. He died in a helicopter crash in 2012 while checking out a commercial alligator farm.

The stars were out for this event — Leah Chase of Dooky Chase’s Restaurant in New Orleans, the first lady of Louisiana cuisine; Randy Fertel of the Ruth’s Chris family; Chef Randy Cheramie, executive director of the Culinary Institute; Marcelle Bienvenu, cookbook author and faculty member; a half-dozen chefs from all over the country who came there quietly to look for new employees, and John Folse himself.

John told how 20 years ago he and then Nicholls president Donald Ayo, over bowls of gumbo at John’s Lafitte’s Landing restaurant in Donaldsonville, came up with the idea for a culinary institute.

When they tried to sell the idea to a skeptical state Board of Regents, one member asked John, in a dismissive tone, “What’s the difference between a cook and a chef?”

John replied, “About $80,000.”

The institute was approved...

Panda-monium

I’m sure Mariano Hinojosa, of Baton Rouge, doesn’t want to start an international conflict. But he does bring up an interesting point:

“Giant panda Mei Xiang recently gave birth to twins at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C.

“China says we have to return Mei Xiang and her cubs to China.

“But wait a minute. Don’t the twin pandas qualify as ‘anchor babies’ and therefore have U.S. citizenship?

“As U.S. citizens the cubs have the right to stay in the U.S. And momma panda can apply for American citizenship. I am sure there’s at least one immigration lawyer who will handle her case.”

Name that pooch

“I have always been fascinated with what people name their dogs, and why,” says Annabelle Armstrong.

“We now have a 3-month-old yellow Lab in our neighborhood named Hooper. Julie Rhorer told me it is for Hooper Road.

“She says Davis Rhorer’s mother, Janet, used to regale them with stories of growing up on Hooper Road.

“Janet told how her mother, Zip Quinn, drove her and her brother Louis from Hooper Road to Dufrocq Elementary in eight minutes. And, though named Zip, she did not speed.

“Our neighborhood has had some great dog names. I recall a large dog of German origin with blue eyes, named Frank for ‘Ol’ Blue Eyes.’ And I never met the cocker spaniels named ‘Noodles’ and ‘Lasagna.’

“Welcome to Hundred Oaks, Hooper!”

Gathering of lefties

George E. McLean, of Metairie, says Barbara “Southpaw” Spencer’s story about being left-handed reminds him of a time when he dined out with his parents:

“We were seated in a restaurant, and the waitress proceeded to set the table for left-handed diners.

“Upon realizing her error, she apologized and blamed it on her being left-handed.

“My mother assured her there was no problem — as the three of us were left-handed also.”

Me too, George

The above-mentioned George McLean reminds me of a problem all of us southpaws faced in school:

“I hated loose-leaf binders, with those big rings in my way.”

Special People Dept.

— Elwood Schexnayder, of Destrehan, celebrates his 91st birthday on Tuesday, Aug. 25. He is a World War II veteran.

— LeRee Bateman, a retired nurse, celebrates her 90th birthday on Tuesday, Aug. 25.

Inquiring Minds Dept.

You people are evidently watching a lot of old movies this summer.

After inquiries about the use of amnesia in story lines and the popularity of quicksand as a hazard, Mona Cancienne, of Donaldsonville, posed this question about old Westerns:

“Were guns real cheap back then? Otherwise, why would the bad guys, when being chased by a posse, throw their guns away when they ran out of bullets? Maybe bullets were expensive. Just asking!”

Thought for the Day

From Francis Celino, the Metairie Miscreant: “There are two excellent theories for arguing with women, neither of which work.”

Plenty of nothing

Jimmy Varnado says, “My wife Jewell asked, ‘What are you going to do today?’

“My reply was, ‘Nothing.’

“‘You’ve said that for the last three days,’ she told me.

“I replied, ‘I didn’t finish up three days ago.’”

Contacting Smiley

Write Smiley at Smiley@theadvocate.com. He can also be reached by fax at (225) 388-0351 or mail at P.O. Box 588, Baton Rouge, LA 70821.