Paul Prudhomme introduced the world to intense Cajun and Creole flavors using his equally vibrant personality. New Orleans had always been known for its French-influenced Creole dishes, including stuffed Mirliton and Shrimp Creole, but Prudhomme introduced Creole’s country cousin – Cajun cooking, with its dark rouxs and tasso – to wide acclaim. Prudhomme said Cajun and Creole cooking came from the same French roots – but that Cajun cooking had more pepper. Prudhomme was the youngest of 13 children and grew up outside of Opelousas. He came to New Orleans in 1970 and in 1975 he became the first non-European executive chef at Commander’s Palace. There the Brennan’s allowed him to serve Cajun dishes, like chicken and andouille gumbo with a dark roux, to customers. But the nation’s food writers really came knocking at his door after he opened K-Paul’s on Chartres Street in the French Quarter. He opened the restaurant as the nation was beginning to embrace the New American cooking movement, which featured local flavors and locally grown food. Prudhomme’s dishes, including his blackened redfish, were soon being copied throughout the nation, and caused Louisiana to ban the sale of redfish until 1992.
In 1988, former New York Times food critic Craig Claiborne said Prudhomme “opened up the floodgates to the whole field of Southern cooking.”
He had several cookbooks and TV cooking shows, and at one point was more popular than Julia Child.
Prudhomme was also to his generous, giving personality, which he attributed to his cuisine: “Cajun makes you happy.”