first time I ever heard of gumbo was while I was attending chef
school. I don't believe anyone
even made any, it was just discussed. It was termed a "regional"
food and that was about it. It never really turned
up again until I moved to Houston. It turns out that this
great magical elixir is clearly one of the most scrutinized and
opinionated foods I've ever run across. Like a fingerprint,
no two are alike. The
interesting thing is that you can get some really bad stuff in
New Orleans, where I always thought it would be great. I personally found that
out more than once. You
must also beware once you leave the south. As a former Yankee myself,
(been here longer than I lived up there and won't move back),
many of 'em can't pull it off.
first time I saw someone making it was at the old Ouisie's
in '83 or '84. I
was puzzled over the fact it took several shifts for this particular
cook to make the roux. She said it had to be
cooked really slowly so it wouldn't burn. I have no memory of
her finished product, but it took way to long to make. Two or so years later
we ended up hiring Bill to work nights. Then we hired another
guy also named Bill. Out
of three people on the shift, two were now named Bill. And so it
was. Both Bills were
very good cooks. That
was a big help, as each cook had the opportunity and responsibility
to create their own menu items each night. Bill #1 let it out one
day that he made great gumbo.
He even said he could knock it out in a shift. This was a sight to
behold. His gumbo
was excellent and it sold out quickly any time he would make it.
He wasn't totally secretive about making it, but I never
bothered him while he was doing it.
Instead I watched him make it, the kitchen was quite small
and you couldn't help seeing what the others were working on.
I wanted to make it myself I started reading up on it.
I never seemed to find a recipe that told the whole story,
that there are two distinctly main components. The stock is just as
important as the roux, and the roux will be the dead giveaway
of what separates good or bad gumbo. Over the years
I've come up with a recipe of my own that I have had many compliments
on. When June Terry's
mother, who is from a small town in Louisiana, maybe Breaux Bridge,
said it was great, I knew I was on to something.
I gave a lesson recently to a gentleman and we made gumbo. It's quite a process
but he loved it and had a great time. He also had a fabulous
pot of gumbo that he shared with friends who also loved it. He also has the recipe.
There are ingredients that are not on the paper. Love and passion cannot
be purchased. Cooking
without them can be difficult without the proper time and energy
to go with them. In all I am quite happy
in my craft these days and I think it's important if you want
to be a good cook. I
want to thank my wife, who without her support, in many ways,
this all wouldn't be happening.