Mark and Svitlana Boudreaux

Mark and Svitlana Boudreaux opened Shashlik Grill in New Iberia.

Mark Boudreaux and his wife, Svitlana, opened Shashlik Grill, 241 W. Main St. in New Iberia, in April. A retired oil field worker, he and his wife opened the restaurant, which is named after a form of Russian barbecue. 

I am a lifelong resident of New Iberia and come from a family of seven siblings: five boys and two girls with me being third in line. At the age of 17, I started working in the oil field and later reverted back to more common jobs for a few years. At 24, I went to work back into the oil field for the next 33½ years. Only my eldest brother worked in the oil field as well and worked for the same company as me. After retiring I sought out consultant work, but demand is low at this time. So I started a new business, a restaurant.

Although never attending any formal training in cooking, I learned a great deal from my mother, her mother and my father. Having moved out on my own at age 17 and trying to save money, I learned to cook for myself. Since retiring, I tried to establish myself as a personal chef in this area. Work was slow as the oil field downturn limited demand for personal chefs. I would say that everyone in my immediate family are good cooks. My mom could cook a chicken a dozen ways and all were good. My dad used to go on large group cookouts where he was the cook and I would follow and help. While in my off time I did enter numerous cooking contests and won quite a few awards for my dishes, most of which I use in the restaurant now.

I worked in Russia for almost two years on a 30/30 schedule and learned to love the women in that area and their culture. Svitlana and I met online, started dating, communicating with each other on Skype and met in other countries for over 1½ years. I asked her to marry me on one of my trips back to her country, Ukraine, and I was lucky she accepted. Since both of us were married before, we landed on a small family-oriented wedding held at my friend’s home. We have now been happily married for over five years.

The restaurant name was a blend of both of our ideas. Shaslik (pronounced shash-LEEK) is basically the Russian word for their form of barbecue similar to shish kebabs. I liked the word grill since it combines grilling and other foods akin to a small restaurant.

Running the restaurant is a tremendous task, especially when you’re the cook, manager, bookkeeper and staff control. The most surprising issue I incurred was trying to start the business. Dealing with permits and approvals through this state is a major hassle. It’s no wonder not many businesses want to come here. The process is not streamlined or easy to decipher, and due to government cutbacks, it is understaffed.

Although our name implies that we have only Russian barbecue, it really was just a catchy name we wanted to employ. We do have shish kebabs on our menu, but we offer soups and other barbecue meats along with some not-too-usual seafood dishes, including barbecue crabs and marinated crab fingers.

Our customers are not hesitant to try our foods since most of customer base to this point has basically been word-of-mouth. As newcomers come into the restaurant, I try to personally meet them and offer them free taste samples of our food. One taste and they’re hooked.

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Email Adam Daigle at adaigle@theadvocate.com.