Boil & Roux has a new look: A Black Lives Matter mural now covers the parking lot of the Coursey Boulevard restaurant.

The message, co-owner Adrian Hammond said, isn't meant to be divisive.

Rather, Hammond hopes the mural will call attention to the talent and hard work in the Black community and bring people together.

"You notice that the media always use the first five minutes of the news to criminalize Blacks," he said. "So, this is really a statement that says 'Black Lives Matter.' Don't use us for a stepping stone for a lead to a story. Report crime, but if you have to report, report it equally. Otherwise, it's just reporting the inequalities, the things that everybody's fussing about."

Hammond said Boil & Roux is one of only a few of Baton Rouge's Black-owned casual dining restaurants, which he called an example of a success story in the Black community.

And, he said, a lot of people are stopping by to see and take photos of the mural, which takes up the front parking lots and wraps around one corner.

"Some people come here just to sit outside and look at it, and some people order their food and take it outside to look at the mural while they eat," Hammond said. "It doesn't mean anything derogatory, and we're not racists. We've always been open to any and everybody, and we appreciate every human being. If you're a Christian, that's all there is."

Hammond and co-owner Maurice Walker gave artist and KAWD Art Gallery owner Kristen Downing the go-ahead to paint the mural in the restaurant's parking lot at 11777 Coursey Blvd.

"That's important because Coursey is a main street," Downing said, "and people passing by can see it and park and take a look at it."

Downing put out the word, and 15 artists were chosen for the project, each submitting a design for their chosen letter. For some of them, it was the first time to paint a mural.

"Some artists are not very vocal, but we speak through our art," Downing said. "So this was another opportunity for them to work on a larger scale and to use their voice. Some people are not made to be on the front line protesting, so there's always ways you can use your voice."

Like other restaurants, Boil & Roux is facing the coronavirus challenges of only 50% capacity and staff shortages.

"We're definitely having a problem with staffing, so if anybody's looking for a job, we're hiring hostess, servers, cooks, bartenders and dishwashers," Hammond said. "We're working seven days a week, around the clock."

All that work goes into making dishes fresh each morning; nothing is frozen or prepackaged. 

"We cook what the people like," Hammond said. "Owning a restaurant, you can partly make what you like, but you also make what the customers like. If the customers don't like it, you can't sell it."

The menu is a combination of seafood and soul food, with red beans, crawfish étouffée and gumbo among its most popular offerings.

"If it's on the menu, it's popular," Walker said. "You know how you go to restaurants to order certain things? The idea for Boil & Roux was to have it all under one roof."

Hammond and Walker opened Boil & Roux in 2015.

For Hammond, it was a dream come true. His mother a was good cook, and when he moved to Atlanta to attend Clark University, he called her to guide him through recipes.

His mother died from cancer, but Hammond kept the dream alive. He's even incorporated some of his mom's recipes into Boil & Roux's menu.

Walker also grew up around good cooking. His grandmother had a catering business, and she taught the business to his mother.

"We ended up meeting when I learned he cooked red beans like my mom," Hammond said. "The recipe's a secret, but our red beans are going to be in grocery stores at the top of the year. We're still playing with the name, but it will be under the umbrella of 'Taste of Louisiana.'"

For now, Hammond and Walker are taking things one day at a time.

"You have to decide if you want to stay in business and fight," Hammond said. "But this has always been a passion of mine. Food brings people together — people from all walks of life."

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