Chef Paul Prudhomme (1940 - 2015)
Chef Paul Prudhomme propelled the distinctive cuisine of his native Louisiana into the international spotlight by creating exciting and new American and international dishes.
As the youngest of 13 children, Chef Paul learned the importance of using the freshest ingredients while cooking at his mother’s side. In his early 20’s, Chef Paul’s curiosity of life and cultural customs prompted him to leave his hometown of Opelousas, LA in search of the next, greatest flavors. From an Indian reservation all the way to the finest, five-star restaurant, Chef Paul learned to love, appreciate, and blend the flavors of his younger years with those of many other cultures.
Chef Paul wanted to share his great love and passion for Louisiana food. In July, 1979, he and his late wife, K, opened K-Paul’s Louisiana Kitchen in the historic French Quarter of New Orleans. They had no idea their modest 62-seat restaurant would soon become an international dining destination. With nightly lines of eager diners waiting sometimes hours to be seated, K-Paul’s underwent renovations in 1996 to more than double its seating capacity. With the expansion, diners were also especially pleased to learn that K-Paul’s started taking dinner reservations. While Chef Paul is credited for helping to put New Orleans cuisine on the map, diners “anywhere on the planet” can also experience the best that K-Paul’s has to offer through K-Paul’s Catering Expedition.
As a result of endless requests for his seasoning secrets, Chef Paul started bottling and selling his own line of herbs and spices, including the famous Blackened Redfish Magic®. Chef Paul later expanded the Magic Seasoning Blends® product line to include Salt Free & Sugar Free Seasonings, Seasoned and Smoked Meats (Andouille and Tasso), Magic Pepper Sauce and a line of Cooking Sauce/Marinades for home, retail and institutional use. Today, Chef Paul Prudhomme’s Magic Seasoning Blends® are distributed in all fifty states and in more than 30 countries around the world, where his blends are popular with home cooks and professional chefs alike.
As one of America’s best-known chefs, Prudhomme was featured often on the three major television networks’ prime time programs. He made guest appearances on NBC’s Today Show, ABC’s Good Morning America, CBS This Morning, 20/20, Live with Regis and Kathie Lee, Late Night with David Letterman, NBC Nightly News with Tom Brokaw, Larry King Live, Nightwatch with Charlie Rose, the QVC Shopping Channel, CBS Early Show and the Weekend Today Show. In the summer of 2002, Chef Paul’s life story was featured on A&E Biography.
Chef Prudhomme was the subject of numerous articles and also penned many himself, in such prominent national magazines as Omni, Life, Time, Newsweek, Bon Appetit, Metropolitan Home, Travel and Leisure, Playboy, Food Arts, and National Geographic Traveler.
Among his many accolades and awards, Chef Paul received the “Restaurateur of the Year” award in 1983 from the Louisiana State Restaurant Association. Chef Paul was the first American–born chef to receive the coveted Merité Agricole of the French Republic and was honored in 1986 as “Culinarian of the Year” and also “Culinary Diplomat”- Chef and Child Foundation (1994) by the American Culinary Federation. Chef Paul also took part in America’s Promise, one of the nation’s leading youth development organizations. The National Restaurant Association bestowed upon Chef Paul both the College of Diplomates Award (1993) and the Thad and Alice Eure Ambassador of Hospitality Award (2001). He was honored as Nation’s Restaurant News “Fine Dining Legend Award” winner and selected as Chairman of the National Food Safety Education Month in 2001. Some of the local awards Chef Paul received included the 1994 Louisiana Public Broadcasting Legend Award, the WYES Public Television President’s Award (1999-2000), and the Ella Brennan Savior Faire Award from the American Culinary Foundation – New Orleans Chapter. In May of 2003, Nation’s Restaurant News inducted him into the MenuMasters Hall of Fame and he received Bon Appétit’s Humanitarian Award in 2006. In 2012, Chef Paul was awarded the high honor being named one of the Pioneers of American Cuisine by the Culinary Institute of America.
An international presence, Chef Paul made personal appearances and gave lectures and seminars all over Europe and Asia. He was devoted to feeding the American troops in bases around the world and also served as a consultant to the American Culinary Federation’s Team USA during the Internationale Kochkunst Ausstellung (IKA), commonly referred to as the “Culinary Olympics”.
Chef Paul cooked for heads of state as well as members of the U.S. Congress. Charity work was dear to Chef Paul’s heart and he lent his support to many major fundraisers, which benefit charities such as Meals on Wheels, Easter Seals, the March of Dimes, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, and the National Alzheimer’s Association. Prudhomme was the first Chef to participate in the Robert Mondavi “Great Chef of America” series and was one of 12 chefs chosen from around the world to participate in the celebration of Jerusalem 3000th year anniversary where each chef created a kosher dish to be served at the King David’s Feast in March 1996.
A best-selling author, Chef Paul wrote nine diverse cookbooks and produced six cooking videos, two of which were at the top of the Billboard charts for fifty-three consecutive weeks. Five of Chef Paul’s cooking series are based on his cookbooks, Fork In The Road, Fiery Foods, Kitchen Expedition, Louisiana Kitchen and Always Cooking and are currently aired on cable television and/or The Public Broadcasting System. Chef Paul’s last book, Always Cooking, was released in the spring of 2007.