Brant Palazzo at Magpie Café

For many people, the fondest memories they have of their grandparents usually involve cooking and the amazing meals they shared. Most of the chefs I have interviewed for Let’s Dish have mentioned vivid, loving stories of their grandmothers in the kitchen.

Brant Palazzo is one of those chefs. When I asked Palazzo what inspired him to cook, he told me about a time he and his paternal grandmother made her fig cookies. These were not your average Fig Newtons found on grocery shelves; the cookies were made with figs found in Grandma’s garden and took hours to make.

This memory and similar occasions with his grandmother inspired Palazzo to attend the Louisiana Culinary Institute after high school. After passing the first baking and pastry class at LCI, Palazzo worked at Nottoway Plantation, Whole Foods, Louis DeAngelo’s and The Island Country Club. During this time, he met Louisiana Spice Co. owner and fellow chef Michael Dardenne, who pushed Palazzo to always continue learning and improving his skills as a chef.

In August, Palazzo began working at Magpie Cafe on Perkins Road, where he runs the kitchen. In this edition of Let’s Dish, Palazzo demonstrates how to make a vegan, paleo- and keto-friendly butternut squash soup. It’s a made-from-scratch recipe that should entice anyone still sticking to their New Year’s resolutions.


Two 6-pound butternut squashes, halved and seeds removed

16 cloves garlic, whole

4 cloves garlic, crushed

16 sprigs of thyme

6 tablespoons olive oil

2 teaspoons kosher salt

2 teaspoons black pepper

1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

4 cups yellow onion, diced

1 teaspoon chipotle powder

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 cup honey

6 cups vegetable stock or water

8 ounces coconut milk

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Place 4 cloves garlic in each half of the squash and place the thyme on top of the garlic. Drizzle the squash with 4 tablespoons of the olive oil and sprinkle with salt, pepper and red pepper flakes.

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Roast the squash at 350 degrees for about an hour or until tender.

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While the squash is roasting, saute the onions, crushed garlic and spices in a large pot. Add the honey and cook on medium-low for about 5 more minutes.

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Once the squash finishes cooking and cools slightly, discard the thyme sprigs. Scoop the squash out of the skin and add to the pot while breaking apart. Add the vegetable stock and coconut milk to your pot.

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Puree the soup with an immersion blender or in a regular blender. Add more stock if the soup is too thick.

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Season with salt and pepper and other garnishes to taste.