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Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Cajun chef will bring food & humor to fair

By Jason Stuart

Ranger-Review Staff Writer

Attendees to next week’s Dawson County Fair will have a chance to experience a rare treat in this corner of America — authentic Louisiana cuisine prepared by an equally authentic Cajun chef, with some laughs included — as Chef Scott Landry brings his Cajun cooking/comedy routine to the Dawson 100 Club Free Stage.

Landry, a true-blue Cajun born and raised in Lake Charles, La., has been perfecting his cooking with comedy routine for the past 25 years. He said it all began with a recipe he developed for his mother (the Blend of the Bayou Casserole recipe printed on Page 2) to help convince her to invest in the restaurant/catering venture he was looking to open in Lake Charles.

“I said, ‘Mother, this is going to be my signature dish when I open my restaurant,’ and she said, ‘What restaurant?” Landry said. “And I said, ‘The restaurant I’m going to open when you give me my trust fund.’ And it cost me 25 years of my life.”

Of course, Landry’s passion for cooking goes back further than that. Like many people who grow up in Louisiana (including this reporter), cooking was a way of life, often learned in grandma and grandpa’s kitchen watching as they and the extended family members prepared the almost obligatory Sunday family dinner.

“As you know, being from Louisiana, Sunday is dinner at grandma’s day,” Landry said, adding, “I learned to cook in her kitchen.”

Landry’s first cooking effort was sort of a disaster. He said at age 9, he determined to make a cake using a Betty Crocker cake mix, but being a youngster, didn’t consider what speed to set the mixer on when he went to beat the batter.

“I slung cake mix all over my momma’s kitchen,” he said.

Seeing his passion for cooking, however, his mother gave him his first cookbook for Christmas that year. The next summer, she sent him to cooking camp. Though he would spend some time in the oil fields as a young man before circling around to cooking as a career, his love of cooking never left him.

After spending some years working for Piccadilly Cafeteria, Landry ultimately succeeded with creating his signature recipe and opened his restaurant and catering business, which ultimately led him to begin taking his cooking on the road. 

He said he first found himself boiling crawfish at a festival in Little Rock, Ark., then he started cooking for local charity fundraisers after doing one for his daughter, who was trying to raise money for her school. Then he began going around to a few conventions, and started mixing Cajun folk comedy and humorous stories — some true, some not — into his cooking routine. Before he knew it, he was traveling to high schools all over the country giving performances. Finally, he made a video of his performances and sent it to a talent agency, and the rest, as they say, is history.

“Now we’re averaging about 60-70 days of shows throughout the summer,” Landry said. “It just built into a great career.”

His career has led him around the country and the world. He said he has performed in 44 states and seven foreign countries. During his 25-year career, Landry has cooked for a couple of U.S. presidents, members of the royal families of England and Italy, pretty much every major country music star you can name — including sharing a stage with country legend Kenny Rogers — as well as rap and pop stars like Snoop Dog and R Kelly and even magician David Copperfield.

Despite all that, Landry said he’s still just a simple man who gets simple joy out of making his audience laugh while enjoying his down-home Louisiana cooking.

“We’ve got a pretty good resume, but I’m still a little Cajun cook from Louisiana,” Landry said. “Unlike the big stars, I’m still enjoying the people who took their time and paid their money to come see me.”

One of the things Landry really enjoys about his time on the road — besides sharing his cooking and folksy Cajun humor — is educating people about his home state. He said he really gets a kick out of dispelling people’s misconceptions about Louisiana, like how they think “the only city in Louisiana is New Orleans,” or the very common misconception that Louisiana’s celebrated cuisine is the kind of fiery hot spicy that sets your mouth ablaze.

“I enjoy seeing their shocked expression when they realize (the food) is not so hot they can’t eat it,” he said.

He said he also enjoys ribbing people to a certain degree who live in parts of the United States — like Montana — where the standard table fare tends to be a lot more bland than any self-respecting Louisianan would serve.

“People say, ‘You’re a great cook,’” Landry said. “And I say, ‘You’d be a great cook too if you learned where the salt and pepper shakers are.’”

Despite the long hours spent on the road as he crisscrosses the nation every summer, Landry said he doesn’t see himself slowing down anytime soon. He said he “loves every minute of what we do,” and enjoys meeting different people from different places and getting to share his zeal for cooking and all things Louisiana with them.

“Until I can’t make a living doing this, I’m doing it, because who else gets to go to work every day at the fair?” Landry said.

For him, it’s all about having a good time with his audience, to bring them a little piece of Cajun culture to brighten up their lives for a short time, to live each day by that time-honored Louisiana maxim, “Laissez les bons temps rouler!”

“In South Louisiana, it’s all about the party,” Landry said. “Life’s just fun.”

Reach Jason Stuart at rrreporter@rangerreview.com.

 

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