New ‘Awlins’ Style

Award-winning chef to present soul food cooking class at WTAMU

If you only consider flaky, fried chicken, smooth, mashed potatoes and soft, black-eyed peas Southern soul food, then prepare yourself because New Orleans chef Emile Stieffel III is going to teach you a lesson.

Making his way back to the Panhandle, Chef Emile will lead his class, “New Orleans Soul Food Cooking and Drinks,” on July 27 through West Texas A&M University’s Office of Continuing Education. In years past, Chef Emile showcased Cajun food and Creole food for the cooking program, Buffs on the Bayou and close friend, President J. Patrick O’Brien’s inauguration; but for this year’s interactive cooking class, he is switching aprons.

“This year we’re concentrating on New ‘Awlins’ soul food cooking,” Emile says, pronouncing the name of the Crescent City in the twang only true New Orleanians can pull off. “Africans brought in that style of cooking along with the Southern influences and the influences of the Spanish and the French in the city of New Orleans. It’s not like you would see Southern soul food cooking in maybe Alabama. It has more of the sauces and more of the influences which are completely different from Southern cooking.”

What’s on the menu, you say? Well, it’s not steak and potatoes. The main dish, Catfish Courtbouillon, a stew of fresh catfish, vegetables and piquant spices served over rice, will be complemented by mustard and collard greens seasoned with tasso and andouille, Pain Perdu (the French translation for ‘lost bread’), and mini muffalettas. Emile stresses his presentation is not just about the inviting aromas and toothsome flavors that emanate from New Orleans food; he wants his audience to understand why recipes have been prepared and cooked the same way for centuries.

“We do want to talk about not only how to cook what we’re doing, but it’s why you’re cooking it that way and what’s the history behind the dishes and what’s the influences behind it,” he says, as he gets back on track from a detour recalling an early morning of tailgating during an LSU vs. Tulane baseball game.

But that’s only the first portion of the presentation. The second half of the class will be devoted to bayou beverages, alcoholic that is, with genuine poboys for nibbling. The notorious hurricane cocktail, state-brewed Abita and Dixie beer, Ramos Gin Fizz (aka New Orleans Fizz), Sazerac and Southern Comfort will show up at the cooking class, so be sure to have your game face on if you attend, especially if you are planning to sample the Herbsaint iced tea.

“It had to have some sort of history to it, such as the hurricane,” says Emile of the cocktail that originated in The Big Easy that had to be incorporated into the menu. “And something that’s popular and something people like. I mean, I think every region is very proud of its beers.”

Born and raised in New Orleans, Emile graduated from the University of New Orleans with an engineering degree and pursued that career until the mid ’80s when he and his two brothers decided to make jambalaya and sell it to Cajuns at festivals, he says. Over the years, his brothers discovered they couldn’t hang with the self-proclaimed “weekend warrior” and Emile continued the catering business, founding Aurora Catering in 1999.

Among his many culinary accolades, Emile has earned three trophies at the 2009 Louisiana Tailgate and BBQ Festival and competed on “Throwdown with Bobby Flay” in 2006, and was crowned king of Jambalaya Jam with his recipe for Throwdown Chicken and Sausage Jambalaya.

“That was fun,” he jubilantly exclaims. “That was really fun. Bobby Flay is the perfect gentleman.”

If your taste buds have never been exposed to bona fide New Orleans fare before, then Emile has two words of advice: “Be open.”

Southern cooking and Southern New Orleans cooking aren’t two peas in a pod, Emile reiterates. For example, classic, Southern-style mustard and collard greens are not the same as New Awlins-style mustard and collard greens, mind you.

“We’re going to be doing mustard greens and collard greens,” Emile says, as if there is a slight sense of mischief in his voice, “And everybody goes, ‘Ewwww.’ Well how we do it here is we take lots of bacon, cook that down, lots of tasso, cook that down, lots of andouille, cook that down, and some onions and add it to the greens… They’re not wilted-down greens that are icky and yucky. You add great seasoning to it!”

The chef’s cooking class will include demonstrations, tastings and audience participation, and Emile guarantees it’s not only going to be a versatile evening.

“It’s not the just cooking that we’re going to do,” Emile declares. “That’s how we are going to introduce it. We’re going to do it New Awlins style… We’re trying to educate and also have a good time and tell history and have different flavors that you probably aren’t going to see in most of the South. These are things you are only going to find in the New Awlins area.”

For more information on Chef Emile, visit his website, customcatering.net.

FAST FACTS
What: “New Orleans Soul Food Cooking and Drinks” presented by Chef Emile Stieffel III
When: 4:30-6:30 p.m., July 27
Where: University’s Alumni Banquet Facility, West Texas A&M University, Canyon
Cost: $75 per person
Info: Deadline to register for the class is 5 p.m., July 23. For more information, please call the Office of Continuing Education at 651-2037 to ensure a spot.

 


by Drew Belle Zerby

After graduating from LSU in 2009, Drew Belle worked as a page designer in north Louisiana until moving to Amarillo and joining AGN Media in late 2010. In her spare time, she loves to read, travel and spout out useless movie trivia.
 

 

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