Born and reared on a farm near Opelousas in Louisiana's Acadiana country, Paul Prudhomme was the youngest of 13 children. When the last girl left home, he was, at age seven, old enough to help his mother in the kitchen, and it was at her side that he learned the value of fresh, quality products. "We didn't have electricity, so of course there was no refrigeration. Therefore, we used only what was fresh and in season. I learned to appreciate herbs and vegetables right from the garden, freshly slaughtered chickens, and fish and crawfish just caught in nearby streams and bayous. This bounty, plus my mother's natural talent as a cook, our whole family's love of cooking and eating, and the joy we shared at meals, all influenced me as a chef," he said.
From a very early age, Paul Prudhomme knew that he wanted to make preparing food his life's work. After completing school, he traveled for several years, working as a cook in all kinds of restaurants, and learning as much as he could about the ingredients and styles of cooking in different parts of the country. "Sometimes, when I thought the food was too bland, I'd sneak in a few dried herbs and spices," he said. "When customers complimented the dishes from my station, I'd try to remember exactly what I'd used, but that was hard, so I began keeping little notes on good mixes in my pockets. Sometimes I'd get caught, and this didn't make me popular with the head chefs."
His wanderlust temporarily satisfied, Prudhomme came to New Orleans, a mere 90 miles from his home, where he honed his skills and built a following at a noted Garden District restaurant. Then, in 1979, he and his late wife, K Hinrichs Prudhomme, opened K-Paul's Louisiana Kitchen. A small restaurant on Chartres Street in the French Quarter, it was originally envisioned as a casual eatery for local customers. Word soon spread of the magic being created in the little kitchen, though, and it wasn't long before customers, both natives and tourists, began lining up to sample some of the amazing dishes created by Chef Paul Prudhomme. Two of his signature creations - - Blackened Redfish and Blackened Steak - - are widely imitated.
Now one of this country's best-known chefs, Prudhomme has often appeared on national television. He's been seen with Bryant Gumbel on The Today Show, with Joan Lunden on Good Morning America, on CBS This Morning with Forest Sawyer, on 20/20, Live with Regis and Kathie Lee, Donahue, Late Night with David Letterman, with Tom Brokaw on NBC Nightly News, on Larry King Live, Nightwatch with Charlie Rose, and the QVC shopping channel.
His first cookbook, Chef Paul Prudhomme's Louisiana Kitchen, which was on the New York times bestseller list for many weeks in 1986, includes many of the recipes created originally for the restaurant. With his brothers and sisters and their spouses he produced The Prudhomme Family Cookbook, which contains, not only their down-home recipes, but a lively account of their cultural heritage. In Seasoned America Chef Paul imparts his inimitable touch to traditional recipes gleaned from his nationwide travel, and in Fork In The Road he offers ways to prepare familiar-tasting dishes with greatly reduced fat and cholesterol, and without dependence on refined sugars.
Chef Paul Prudhomme's Pure Magic is the only cookbook that specifically designates Magic Seasoning Blends in each recipe, while Fiery Foods That I Love contains recipes that fire up the imagination and taste buds with their innovative combinations of ingredients and seasonings. Chef Paul's latest cookbook, Kitchen Expedition, takes the reader/cook on an adventure inspired by cooking lessons he took from chefs and meals he enjoyed on his worldwide travels.
Three of these cookbooks can be enjoyed as cooking videos and public TV series - - Fork In The Road, Fiery Foods That I Love and Kitchen Expedition. The series are seen all over the country, so if they don't appear in your area, get in touch with the program manager at your local PBS television station.
Chef Paul was the first American-born chef to receive the coveted Merité Agricole of the French Republic, and in 1986 he was honored as "Culinarian of the Year" by the American Culinary Federation. He has written and been featured in such prominent national magazines as Life, Time, Omni, Newsweek, Bon Appetit, Metropolitan Home, Travel and Leisure and Playboy. He and his staff have cooked for heads of state, President Ronald Reagan's inauguration, and at the Congressional Barbecue.
Never content to rest on his laurels, however, and always eager to learn, Chef Paul Prudhomme continues to travel, to experiment, to make personal appearances, and to develop delicious new recipes.