Canyon News, Sunday Paper Lead
By: James Barrington
Sunday, July 24, 2011
NOW, this is cool!
Cajun, and then there’s Creole. Chef Emile Stieffel of New Orleans, is
making a tradition of an annual pilgrimage to Canyon to share his
knowledge of both styles of cooking.
long-time friend of West Texas A&M University President J. Patrick
O’Brien and his wife, Karen, it was Karen who hosted the Creole cooking
class for about 50 budding chefs from college aged on up to “seasoned”
veterans of the culinary arts. She told The Canyon News, “While Pat was
at Loyola, we met Emile’s first wife, who also worked there. Through
her, we met Emile. We hired his catering business on several occasions
and became good friends. Now, when we visit, Emile and Pat have ‘gourmet
golf’ outings where Emile brings food and they eat while golfing.” When
questioned, she confessed that such outings are probably more about the
food than the golf.
the crowd gathered, four tables had been prepared with four workstations
each, containing all the ingredients for the table’s featured dish.
Recipe sheets for the menu items were prepared for the participants, who
filled the 16 workstations with volunteers from the crowd. One table
prepared “Creole shrimp, sausage and chicken jambalaya.” That was
complemented by a second table preparing a “Remoulade sauce” that was
partially served with chilled jumbo shrimp, with the remainder of the
sauce going into the jambalaya as it boiled like a witch’s brew in a
large pot over a propane fire. The third table was where four chefs in
etouffee,” and the final table provided the dessert, a “Mostly
Traditional Bananas Foster,” complete with flaming rum and served over
With recipes in hand and step by step instructions being given by Chef
Stieffel, the class participants who were not actively engaged in the
actual preparation were encouraged to move around and get a close look
at how each dish looked during the different stages of preparation.
All the while, Stieffel was giving a running dialogue with audience
members about the differences between Cajun cooking, that he had
presented during his visit last year, and Creole cooking, the subject of
this year’s workshop.
the short history lesson, Stieffel told of the Cajuns brought from
France, but rejected by the English, who ruled the colonies in the 18th
century. Over a period of years and numerous hardships, including losing
two of the seven ships that originally took them away, they eventually
worked their way down the east coast to Georgia and then across to
French-controlled Louisiana. The Cajuns settled outside the cities in
the rural areas to avoid persecution from the native “Creoles,” – a
Spanish term that meant “born here.” They were proud to be “from here,”
not from “the old country.”
the Cajuns lived primarily in the rural areas, their diet was rich in
pork, because pork could be smoked, salted and preserved. The Creoles,
living in the cities, had easy access to fresh seafood and markets that
could easily dispose of a beef carcass in a day, eliminating the need
for preservative measures.
to Stieffel, the city-dwelling Creoles also had the advantage of
beautiful gardens located in shady courtyards where they were able to
grow a variety of herbs and vegetables that could not stand the harsh
sunlight in the rural fields. Therefore, the Creole cooking became more
complex, including herbs, spices and even cream.
Because of plentiful salt domes and salt water, the Creoles would add
vinegar and spices and make hot sauces. “Not all were hot,” Stieffel
said, “but they all had distinctive flavors.”
waiting for the shrimp, the last ingredient added to the Jambalaya, to
cook in the residual heat of the boiling mixture that had already cooked
the rice in a sealed pot, Stieffel explained how he had prepared to be a
“I was a mechanical engineer,” he said. “In 1975 I graduated from New
Orleans University. I built the space shuttle gantry and figured out how
to disassemble it and move it to Florida.” Stieffel later went on to
work on the energy management systems for the Superdome before opening
his own company for about five year. “Then I went into Cajun cooking,”
It began as a hobby with much trial and
error looking for the right combination of ingredients, but as he worked
on it, people began to ask him to cater for them. So, enjoying being a
Cajun chef more than being a mechanical engineer, he began a catering
business. “I don’t have a restaurant,” he said. “All my work is strictly
Activities were scheduled through the end of the week, culminating in a
brunch today from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Through his friendship with the
O’Brien’s, Stieffel’s annual pilgrimage to Canyon and the campus of
WTAMU holds the continuing promise of delicious Louisiana cooking.
Mr. James Barrington of the Canyon News graciously allowed me
to use these pics! He took them with a
slightly wide angle lens, that technique really shows the groups of people well.
Check out his website at
Contact us for further details....ChefEmile@CustomCatering.net
to Home Cookin' Page or Return to
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Chef Emile L. Stieffel, Aurora Catering, Inc. email address: ChefEmile@CustomCatering.net
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Revised: August 20, 2011