Celebrity Chef Paul Prudhomme Dies at 75


New Orleans chef Paul Prudhomme speaks with CNN’s Anderson Cooper about the resiliancy of New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina.
(Credit: CNN)

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Louisiana Chef Paul Prudhomme, credited with helping popularize Cajun and Creole cuisine, died Thursday, according to K-Paul’s, the New Orleans restaurant he owned.

Prudhomme, who was 75, died in New Orleans after a brief illness, the restaurant said.

“Paul was the one who not only put Louisiana food, our food, Cajun and Creole food, on the map, but he was also the one who started the American food revolution that flourishes today,” Poppy Tooker, host of the “Louisiana Eats!” radio show, told CNN.

His 1975 appointment as executive chef at the upscale New Orleans restaurant Commander’s Palace helped break the assumption that a fine-dining restaurant had to have a French chef, Tooker said.

His upbringing as one of 13 children born to Louisiana sharecroppers also helped shape an approach to cooking that favored fresh, local ingredients and grew into the wildly popular farm-to-table movement of recent years, Tooker said.

Prudhomme was one of the nation’s first celebrity chefs, and his restaurants attracted huge crowds and widespread acclaim. He hosted several cooking shows and authored nine cookbooks, some of them bestsellers.

His recipe for blackened redfish, first served at K-Paul’s, became so popular state fisheries officials had to impose limits to save the species from overfishing, Tooker said. He also created and marketed a successful line of seasonings sold in groceries nationwide.

James Beard Award-winning chef Thomas Keller tweeted that Prudhomme will be “sorely missed.”

New Orleans Times-Picayune food editor Judy Walker called Prudhomme a “legend” who “changed New Orleans food forever.”

Commander’s Palace, the well-regarded New Orleans restaurant where Prudhomme was executive chef before opening K-Paul’s in 1979, tweeted that its staff was saddened by the news.

“He was well loved,” the restaurant said.

Fellow New Orleans chef Isaac Toups’ restaurant also posted condolences, saying, “We lost a culinary legend today.”

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