Hometown: New Orleans, LA
Cooking since: age 14
First restaurant job: dishwasher at a restaurant in the French Quarter
Last job before Quality Seafood: Restaurant Manager at Semolina International Pasta Restaurant
Kitchen credentials: 16 years in the industry, worked at Commander’s Palace for Chef Emeril Lagasse, at K-Paul’s Louisiana Kitchen for Chef Paul Prudhomme, at NoRth restaurant as a pastry chef
Favorite fish to eat: Grilled Steelhead Trout with Zinfandel Orange Mustard Glaze
Favorite fish to cook: Grilled Texas Black Drum
Most far-out thing he’s eaten: Nutria (click here for recipes)
What’s on his iPod: Hip-hop and R&B
Where are you from? I’m originally born and raised in New Orleans, LA…The downtown part of New Orleans, called the Seven Ward…a lot of culture in that particular area, the Mardi Gras Indians, Hunter’s Field…I’ve been there my whole life until August 29th…when Katrina happened.
How did you arrive in Austin? I evacuated with my family, a day before the storm hit. Drove west, didn’t know where we was going. Stopped in Houston, everywhere was booked. Kept driving. Went to small towns…until we came to Austin…and there was a hotel available called the Habitat Suites. And we stopped there, lodged there for about a week…People found out that, you know, evacuees, a family with children…was living there. And we was down having breakfast…and they had this actor guy. I can’t think of his name, but he was tall, and I seent him in several movies…somebody must have informed him about the family that was from Katrina. So he came over to our table and he was saying, “I heard about the news, and I’m sorry for what happened. Is there anything I can do to help?” “No we alright.” And he said, “Well, I was just over reading a book, and it just came upon my heart to write y’all a check.” So he came up from out his briefcase with a check for $500. I was like, “wow.” I was blowed away. Nobody ever done nothing that generous for me in my whole entire life…He wasn’t even sweating it. It was really nothing to him, so he was like, “Take it…y’all take care of your family.”…So time went on. We thought we was going to go back the next week…So maybe two months passed, and we still in a hotel…so I go down and talk to the gentleman. I guess he was the manager of the hotel. And I said, “Man, what’s my tab?” He said, “I didn’t want to tell you to overwhelm you. Several people found out you was staying here. You don’t owe nothing. It’s free.”…It was just overwhelming generosity.
How did you come to work at Quality Seafood? So I found out that New Orleans was really devastated, and we couldn’t return. So I decided to look for a job…I looked online for a New Orleans-based restaurant, and the first link that popped up was Quality Seafood, and it had a picture of Carol and Paul Huntsberger…smiling…and I was like, they look like some real nice people, so I came down and filled out an application. Jim was the manager, and Jim was impressed with me so he gave me an interview with Paul right there on the spot. He called Paul out the back, and they both interviewed me right there, along with Carol, and he hired me right there on the spot. And the rest is history. Five years later, I’m still here.
Once you arrived at Quality Seafood, Carol, along with her children’s godparents, Martha and John Lefner, and 15 ladies from the “Loose Cannon” investment group teamed up to buy your family a car for Christmas that year, is that right? The generosity continued, you know…Carol, a friend of hers, they wanted to help some people out, that they found out that they was from Katrina cause they just had a big heart. Carol came to me and was like, she had a friend named Martha. Martha and her husband found out I was here and wanted to help out with everything. So they came to me and was like you know, “what ya’ll need?”…I’m like, “wow.” I didn’t believe it. So they got the car. It was a 1994 Caprice Classic, in tip top shape…It had like 75,000 miles on it… She paid the insurance for a year. It was like $1,000 in insurance…That was real generous…And that car got me around for other opportunities…it opened other doors…I’ve been real blessed.
Where did you work prior to working at Quality? My last job, before Katrina, I was working at a place called Semolina’s – an international pasta restaurant. And I worked there for 8 years. I started there as a line cook, a regular, sauté, fast-paced line cook. And I moved my way up to key employee, and I also became the restaurant manager there…we had a team of five managers, and I was on that team, working my way up from just the bottom there…We cooked pastas from all over the world, like pad Thai pasta, Thai curry pasta, Southwest pasta, pastas from all the continents…It was pretty unique.
Do you cook at home? Yea, I cook at home…help my wife out every now and then. She, predominately, is the homemaker, but I help out every now and then. I like to help out the sister, but she predominately likes to cook for her husband. She enjoy it.
Is she a good cook? Great cook. I wouldn’t have married her if she wasn’t (smiles).
Do y’all like to have Cajun food at home? Definitely gotta have Cajun food. It’s in my blood. I found out when I came here that the food didn’t really taste so good, cause in New Orleans we also Cajun and Creole. And we love some stuff with, not just spice, but some flavor, some soul in it. And I know everybody else cook real different, and I didn’t really find out until I moved outside the box how different New Orleans was compared to everywhere else. New Orleans is really a special city.
In your opinion, what makes Quality Seafood unique? The laid-back atmosphere, the family environment, the good vibe from all the employees, and the New Orleans Cajun essence behind some of the dishes.
If you could give our customers once piece of advice when cooking seafood, what would it be? If you’re not sure how to flavor your fish, try our blackening seasoning – you can never go wrong.