by Rachel Klaus
Bayou Region cooking isn’t just unique in flavor, but also who is stirring the pot. Unlike in many cultures where women do the majority of the cooking, Cajun men are often the ones who take the reigns in the kitchen. And that’s something Thibodaux-native Beau Brooks takes pride in.
Brooks, an attorney and president of the non-profit organization of Upside Downs, says he thinks the reason why so many men cook in the Bayou Region is because they travel to places like their hunting or fishing camps.
“Most of the time it is just a bunch of guys there and each one will cook a meal on a certain day,” Brooks says. “That’s just how people have grown up since they were little.”
Marshall Welsh, chef and instructor for the Chef John Folse Culinary Institute, says one of the reasons why so many men cook in the Bayou Region is because of chefs like Justin Wilson, Paul Prudhomme and John Folse.
“People grew up watching those guys on television, it made it seem like cooking was a good pastime,” Welsh says.
“I think a lot of men cook because they think it is fun, especially since there is a unique culture of food in the bayou area.”
Brooks says he actually got his love of cooking from his grandmother.
“While growing up, I realized that my favorite dishes were the ones my grandmother cooked,” Brooks says.
“When I went somewhere else and tasted the same meal, it was not the same. I picked up her habits and got her to teach me how to cook. I think over the years, I pretty much perfected all of her recipes, even though she did not follow any in particular.”
Cooking to him is a stress reliever, and a way to pass a good time with friends and family. Like his grandmother, Brooks does not follow any certain recipe. Although Brooks can cook just about anything, his favorite things to cook are stews, gumbos, jambalaya and pastalaya. It is really anything that is native to Louisiana’s Bayou Region.
No matter what he cooks or how he prepares it, his neighbor and friend, Codi Waguespack will eat any dish he puts in front of her.
“My favorite things that he makes is his shrimp and crawfish stew, also the lima beans with a roux,” she says. “His lima beans are the best.”
Brandon Ruttley, another friend and neighbor, says Brooks is a perfectionist when it comes to cooking and that he probably should have gone to culinary school instead of law school.
“I think he gets ideas off of Pinterest and makes it his own,” Ruttley says. “Just about every other day he knocks on my door and drops off different foods.”
From boiled seafood to a good old fashioned roux, finding good home-cooked meals will not be hard to come by since it is a part of the unique culture of South Louisiana. Ruttley says cooking is important to the culture because it has been carried through generation to generation and Brooks is helping the culture expand by instilling the value of fixing a home-cooked meal for his family almost every night, preserving his culinary heritage.