Today there are so many “celebrity chefs” around you can hardly consider them celebrities. In the 1980s the word “celebrity” was rarely, if ever, attached to the word “chef.” We knew of Julia Child. Most of us knew Justin Wilson. But when Paul Prudhomme came on the scene with the 1984 release of his cookbook “Paul Prudhomme’s Louisiana Kitchen,” the world of food changed immediately.

The chef made his way up the ranks of Louisiana restaurants before becoming the first American-born executive chef at Commander’s Palace in 1975. He’s credited with putting it on the path it continues today. While working there, he and his wife, Kay, opened K-Paul’s in 1979 and eventually made the move to meet with demand. He even hired budding chef Emeril Lagasse.

Without Prudhomme we would have missed out on several things. He introduced turducken to the United States. I have his blackening seasoning in my spice cabinet right now; it was so popular with his redfish recipe that commercial fishing of the species had to be restricted. He is responsible for the popularity of Creole and Cajun cuisine in the rest of America because of his success.

In the 1980s there was no chef bigger, in many ways, than Prudhomme. I remember early on having a fascination with him as a heavy fellow who cooks on TV and people treat him like a rock star. After nine cookbooks, a network of fans, students who are now celebs in their own right and a famous restaurant that still bears his name, he’s as much of a rock star as we’ve ever had. He will be missed.

Wintzell’s Shellebration continues with something for the kids
The three months of “shellebrating” at Wintzell’s Oyster House is still going strong. The event will culminate in a head-to-head oyster eating contest at all Wintzell’s locations Nov. 1, but in the meantime the Gulf’s place for bivalves is focusing on the kids.

Oct. 16-18, all locations are encouraging our youngsters to step up and try their first-ever raw oyster on the house. You never forget your first. I personally cannot wait to see the looks on the faces of Lucas and Graham and have begun the “pep talk” for this weekend.

Kids’ meals will be free and the promotion is open to those ages 4-12 with proper ID. Get your cameras ready and let’s hope this becomes an annual event.  

Shrimp Fest demos make a splash
Shrimp Fest has been going on for 44 years, but this year’s event included several demonstrations that brought an educational element to the food, music and frivolity.

Latrigue’s Seafood and Fishing Time TV’s Crab Claw and Buzz Bait gave a demonstration on how to pick crabs and shuck oysters, and fed the crowd with grilled alligator sausage and scallop shish kebabs, grilled oysters and West Indies salad.

Captain Randy Boggs of Reel Surprise Charters spoke about deer processing and storing meats, and gave out samples of summer sausage sticks, fried deer steak and grilled wild boar.

Chef Chris Sherrill of the Flora-Bama Yacht Club and the NUISANCE group spoke about the preparation of bycatch or “trash fish” that his group deals with as well as invasive species. “Nuisance, Underutilized and/or Invasive, that are Sustainable and Available, through Noble Culinary Endeavors” is what the acronym represents. Visit the group’s Facebook page for more information. He then wowed the crowd with blackened duck with sweet chili-braised pork belly.

In the meantime, Sherrill is preparing to compete in the World Food Championships Nov. 3-10 in Kissimmee, Florida. He took first place in the Shrimp Festival’s Chef Challenge. Make us proud, Chris.

Yeah, but can I get a Quarter Pounder at 6 a.m.?
This week, McDonald’s lifted its ban on breakfast after 10:30 a.m. The fast food giant has heavily promoted the “breakfast anytime” campaign with ads everywhere you turn. This, of course, does not come without a slight hitch.

The menu is limited, and there are two different versions of that menu. One is centered on McMuffins and the other on McBiscuits, but you won’t find a location serving both in the non-traditional breakfast hours. Both versions of the menu have hot cakes, saints be praised. Hash browns will not be served at all locations but most places will have them.

The question is whether the full menu will be available all day in the near future. Sometimes a man needs a breakfast McNugget.

Oyster Fest offers VIP treatment
The closer we get to Nov. 6 and 7 the more excited I become. The Hangout Oyster Cook-Off and Craft Beer Festival is becoming one of the largest and most celebrated festivals in our area. For those of you looking make the weekend a grand affair, you may be interested in the VIP tickets.

The $150 pass gets you into the Friday night craft beer festival and the Saturday cook-off. You’ll also receive chef tastings, admission to chef meet-and-greets, two complimentary booklets of tasting tickets for a total of 30 (this is how you purchase beer and food in the festival) and, most importantly, admission to a “Chefs Only” private after-party Saturday night.

These tickets are limited, so get yours now by visiting www.hangoutcookoff.com
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