Marie Ducote is owner of Cajun Food Tours, which offers bus and walking tours of popular restaurants in the Lafayette area and in Breaux Bridge. A former educator, she purchased a bus and started the business after Southern Living declared Lafayette as "the Tastiest Town in the South" in 2012.
I had actually been an assistant principal for nine years and had begun to lose my passion, kinda spinning my wheels, praying about what might be next for me. Just so happened, during that time, I stumbled on my first food tour in Baltimore in 2010 while I was at an education conference. It was a walking tour and I thought, “What a brilliant way to see a new place. Somebody should do this in Lafayette. Too bad you can’t really walk to all the best stuff in any one place in Lafayette.” I didn’t think any more of it, until I took another food tour a year later in Louisville, this one on a bus. That night, laying in the hotel bed — after three years of praying about my lost passion — out of nowhere, I got this overwhelming knowledge that I would be starting a food tour business, and I just about had a panic attack. I had no desire to start a business. I tried really hard for the next few months to pray the idea away. You can see how well that worked.
My mom’s a great cook, and we have lots of great cooks in the family. So I think we’ve just always taken delicious food for granted. We didn’t eat out much when I was a kid. I grew up down the bayou, and eating out was a long drive away. When I started eating at restaurants, I found myself to be pretty discriminating. I don’t want to pay for mediocre food or a meal that’s just OK when I can make delicious food myself. I don’t consider myself a foodie. I just know what I like.
I had a lot of misconceptions at first. For instance, I never dreamed that half of my guests would be locals. I wasn’t planning on that as a target market at first. Also, now this was seven years ago, but I thought that the DAY I had my brochures distributed into all of the hotels and CVBs in Lafayette Parish that my phone would start ringing. It didn’t. I did a lot of pavement pounding, visiting every visitor center, every hotel, bringing boudin and introducing myself. I joined Lafayette Travel and Louisiana Travel to meet people who knew much more about the business than me. And, of course, it’s all about online presence. Be in a million places and make sure Google and Facebook like you.
What I love most is getting to share my sincere, genuine passion for our culture with unsuspecting visitors — getting them to fall in love with Acadiana. I love seeing the same visitors coming back a couple of times a year, bringing a new set of friends every time. Also, I love watching that face of surprised delight that people make the first time they eat good boudin. That just never gets old.
I think everything I say tends to be in story form. I tell the stories of the Acadians, Native Americans and the many different groups of people that came to call this place home and how that defines our culture today. I tell stories about my grandparents, about my life growing up down Bayou DuLarge, about how things around here got their names, but I think my favorite stories are the totally untrue stories that I like to tell about my good friends Boudreaux and Thibodeaux and occasionally about their boys, Pierre and T-boy. I have a very thick and authentic Cajun accent (from down da bayou) that lays dormant until I tell my Boudreaux stories.
The biggest misconception, thanks to Google, is that boudin is a sausage. I have to set people straight on that right away. Also, lots of people expect cracklin to be just the skin. They’re quite pleasantly surprised that the skin on cracklin is really just the lagniappe on a cube of deep-fried bacon.