There will be no cookoff this year by area cooks for The Daily Iberian’s annual Cajun Creole Cookbook — to be distributed the week of the Louisiana Sugar Cane Festival — but that doesn’t mean amateur cooks are limited in ways to show off a favorite hobby. Only in the past couple of years has Jay Florsheim joined the area cooks competing for bragging rights at the annual Cajun Creole cookoff. Something new came along this year.
David Puckett, owner of Café Syndie Mae in Breaux Bridge came up with a way to blend good deeds with good food. He was inspired.
“We recently had a family member who died from Muscular Dystrophy. The last two years of his life, we got to know a friend whose mission is to cook for patients and their families while they’re in hospice — cooking for 16 families a day,” said Puckett. “Kent Zerangue, a retired executive, set up his kitchen to do this. He said he always wanted to be a restaurant chef, a fantasy. He posted a picture of a plate of pork chops on Facebook and I thought, if there is one like him, there are several. Somebody that has a passion for cooking.”
Puckett then created Acadiana Cooks and set out to find area cooks, not chefs by trade, but other professionals passionate about food.
“I wanted them to tell me about their passion and why they would like to be a restaurant cook and what would you cook,” Puckett said. “The last thing I asked was for them to tell me about their passion for a charity.”
He created an online form to be completed by the cooks and distributed to confidential professional cooks and others to determine the finalist for the Acadiana Cooks Competition. Each chef’s 3-course meal will be offered as a fixed menu in the $ 30 to $40 range per person, with 20 percent going back to their favorite charity with a 501c3 designation. A limited standard menu will allow all at the table to participate, with donations benefiting the charity. Plus the restaurant will make a 20 percent donation with an optional specialty drink offering. Selected as one of seven cooks for this first year of competition, Florsheim had this to say.
“I lived in Monroe for the first 24 years of my life eating rice and gravy, hamburger steaks with cornbread — which is still delicious, but nothing like the food down here,” Florsheim said. “It took me marrying a Cajun girl and moving to south Louisiana to truly get it. I learned how important it is to promote local cultures and also promote their resources whether they are agricultural, fishing or just the people. Every recipe that I have presented uses at least one ingredient found locally and some of them have more than one. Café Sydnie Mae does a great job with this aspect of their business and I would just like to be a part of that.”
Sounds like an ad for Louisiana products — which could be the reason one of the secret judges chose Florsheim’s menu as “Billy’s Choice,” chosen Top Chef by Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser. According to Florsheim, he beat out thousands of entrants to win the title, but for this first year, Puckett said at a recent planning luncheon that there were less entries than that number, but they hope to grow through the years.
Charity of Choice
Each cook was asked to recommend a cause they wanted to cook and raise money for by selling tickets for the special dining experience. On the form Florsheim wrote, “The Arthritis Foundation. I know it’s not necessarily local but our oldest daughter Payton has suffered with Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis almost her entire life and if not for this foundation, we would have been completely lost. They were uplifting to us in a dark time when she was first diagnosed.”
After selection for his menu choices and passion for cooking — and several attempts to reach a representative for the foundation — Florsheim decided to choose a local charity to benefit from the $60 per plate dinner. Angel Paws Adoption Center was winner.
“Regardless of the charity’s involvement to help promote the event, Angel Paws will leave with a check from me,” Puckett said. “But Jay has created some special cocktails for the event and some alcohol has been donated. Jay’s menu is extravagant.”
The New Iberia “chef” night will kickoff the seven-night event from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., regular hours at Café Sydnie Mae, 140 E. Bridge St. in Breaux Bridge. Reservations for the night are strongly recommended. Seatings vary by available tables throughout the night. Special entertainment by professional steel drum player Ray Theaux will compliment the meal.
“We will be serving a red and a white from Landry Vineyards — Bayoutage, which is their take on Meritage — and their Blanc du Bois Dry which is a refreshing white,” Florsheim said. “We’ll be serving an all Louisiana cocktail menu including the Landry Vineyards of West Monroe, Bayou Rum Coffee, Satsuma Liqueur made in Lacassine and JT Meleck Vodka from the Branch distillery.”
Other charities and guest chefs include Brett Broussard — The Jimmy V Foundation, Cy Olivier — Red Bird Ministry, Shawn Paul Harrison — Louisiana Organ Procurement Agency, Ken Zerangue — Hospice of Acadiana, Kristen Knight — Foster the Love Louisiana and Jan & Charli Webre — Down Syndrome Association of Acadiana. For more information on the all the Acadiana Cooks special event nights, visit Café Syndie Mae’s website or Facebook page, and to make reservation through Eventbrite.com or call 909-2377.
More About Angel Paws
Most area residents are familiar with the pet charity that for more than 35 years has helped provide homes and has saved countless animals from a life of homelessness and neglect. Angel Paws provides medical care, food, shelter, love and a second chance at life. Organized for the purpose of preventing and relieving suffering to and among animals and to disseminate the humane ethic in Iberia Parish and adjacent areas, Angel Paws has left its mark on not only the animal community but also Iberia Parish as a whole. They continue to reduce the over-population of domestic animals in the area served by the society through spay, neuter and vaccination programs, seek to return lost animals to their owners and take pride in finding suitable homes.
A typical day at Angel Paws in New Iberia starts with animal medical and emotional care. Services include deworming for intestinal parasites, yearly vaccinations, rabies vaccination, spay or neuter, heartworm treatment or heartworm prevention and microchipping and the daily to do list includes is cleaning kennels, bowls, beds, crates, blankets, walls and even moving kennels to sweep and mop under and around them in order to keep the facility clean and the animals healthy. The shelters visiting hours are Monday through Saturday 1 p.m. until 3:30 p.m. Visit www.angelpawsiberia.com for more information or follow them on Facebook and Instagram to stay tuned to their current events.
ACADIANA COOKS 2019 EVENTS
Sept. 12 — Chef Jay “Billy’s Choice” Florsheim
Benefiting Angel Paws Adoption CenterMusic: Ray Theaux Steel Drums
Sept. 19 — Chef Kent Zerangue
Benefiting Hospice of Acadiana • Music TBD
Sept. 25 — Chef Shawn-Paul Harrison
Benefiting The LOPA Foundation
Music: Shotgun Lillie UNPLUGGED
Tickets available thru Eventbrite
Sept. 26 — Chef Kristen Knight
Benefiting Foster the Love Louisiana
Music: Josh Taylor
Oct. 03 — Chef Cy Olivier
Benefiting Red Bird Ministries
Music: Noveau String Band
Oct. 07 — Chefs Curt & Keith Guillory
Music: Nashville singer, songwriter, storyteller Rick Tiger
Tickets will be available thru Eventbrite
Oct. 10 — Chef Brett Broussard
Benefiting Jimmy V Foundation
and Big Brothers Big Sisters
Music: Carl Adcock and Roddie Romero
Oct. 17 — Chefs Jan & Charli Webre
Benefiting Down Syndrome Association of Acadiana