Sam and Cody Carroll are returning to the place where it all began Saturday night to watch the premiere of their Food Network show, “Cajun Aces.”
Louisiana Culinary Institute in Baton Rouge is where the New Orleans couple met, fell in love and embarked on their cooking adventure.
The LCI graduates will gather there with family and friends, along with staff and regular customers of their two restaurants, for a semi-private viewing party. The subject of the first episode, shot in June, is Louisiana crawfish.
“We’ll tell the story of that ingredient, go harvest that ingredient, cook at the family farm, go to Hot Tails and do more casual versions of that dish, and finish at Sac-a-Lait,” 34-year-old Cody Carroll says. “We tell all that story of harvesting and cooking.”
Hot Tails is the chefs’ first restaurant, which they opened in New Roads in 2010. Sac-a-Lait, located in New Orleans’ historic Warehouse District, followed in 2015.
“You’ll definitely see an insight into our life as a married chef couple,” explains 28-year-old Sam (Samantha) Carroll of the show’s focus. “Cody’s background and his family farm (in Batchelor). Also just seeing our lives between our two restaurants, because they’re totally different restaurants, different atmospheres. New Roads is the small restaurant in a small town. The big one in New Orleans (Sac-a-Lait) gets all the tourist attention.”
And accolades. Sac-a-Lait was named Restaurant of the Year by New Orleans Magazine in 2015.
“It’s the first time a restaurant has opened and been given this award in the same year. It was an honor for sure,” Sam Carroll says.
The Crescent City restaurant, housed in a renovated 1882 cotton mill, offers more modern twists on Cajun cooking, says Cody Carroll.
“If you know Cajun cooking and you know the background of Louisiana and Creole cooking, you can see the background in our dishes," he says. "It’s pretty cool, like we tell stories with each dish.”
“One of our famous dishes at Sac-a-Lait is the alligator and mirliton,” Sam Carroll adds. “It’s a honey-fried alligator over mashed mirliton. We do a white remoulade with pickled mustard seeds. Our slate-blackened redfish is very popular. It’s blackened on a piece of Vermont slate instead of the traditional Paul Prudhomme cast iron (skillet).”
Back in New Roads, Hot Tails is known for the crawfish and po-boys, Cody Carroll says.
“I’ve been boiling crawfish all my life, literally every day," he says. "It’s one of the things I take pride in.”
It was the couple’s work ethic that landed them on Food Network, they say, as neither sought out the TV project.
“We just kept our motto of just keep kickin’ butt in the restaurant industry and people would notice, Cody Carroll says. “And we opened up Sac-a-Lait and then about six months after, a production company called us and wanted to schedule a Skype interview so we did the interview with basically one of their main people, and we started working on a pilot, and they shopped the pilot around in New York. I guess it was like a big convention with all the networks, and Food Network picked it up first thing. ... By 10 a.m. the next morning, we got a green light for the show. It was pretty cool.”
Work on the series has been ongoing since May 2016, and the pilot was shot in June.
The couple lives in Lakeview with their 2½-year-old daughter, Malley.
“We go back every Sunday to do brunch at Hot Tails,” Cody Carroll says. “It’s two hours from restaurant to restaurant.”
WHEN: 7 p.m. Saturday
CHANNEL: Food Network (cable Channel 53 in Baton Rouge and Lafayette, cable Channel 67 in New Orleans)