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Chef Don Bergeron’s Story

I was born and raised in Donaldsonville, Louisiana, on Bayou Lafourche. As a very young boy, I spent many summers at my grandmother’s house in Belle Rose, five miles down the road from the “big city” of Donaldsonville. Before I left, I’d proudly state to those within hearing distance, “I going to Grandma Tute’s house in the country.”

Tute’s Magic

To most adults, Thelma “Tute” Dupre Bergeron’s kitchen was a great place to get a wonderful, home-cooked Cajun meal. To a five year old, it was a place of wonder where magical concoctions yielded delectable smells and even better tasting treats. There was always a hive of activity going on because Grandma Tute loved to eat and she loved to cook, and that combination made every one of her relatives very happy. She had a large vegetable garden on the levee next to the bayou, which she tended to every morning, and her yard was a bountiful orchard of pecan and fruit trees. At Tute’s house, everything was homemade: cream cheese, waffles, chicken pie, preserves, dumplings, cakes, and jelly rolls as well as her many Cajun delicacies. She even made her own ketchup, which had a hint of sweetness that went especially well with her famous fried chicken. She had passed this love of cooking down to her son, my father, Donnie Bergeron, who was quite the cook himself. He had his own famous dishes that we enjoyed at home like his incredible spaghetti and meatballs, and wild game sauce piquant. I even still make his homemade fruitcake recipe every year that was passed down to him by his mother. Needless to say, I was surrounded by talented cooks and I too yearned to create the same magic Grandma Tute and Daddy wielded on a daily basis.

 

The Five Year Old Chef

One day, on a trip to Bellina’s Grocery, I poked my head over the counter and proudly explained that I intended on baking a cake. The jovial staff gladly provided me with the necessary ingredients before the end of the day was out I produced a batch of cup cakes that was brought back to the store for everyone to enjoy. Inspired by Grandma Tute, my passion for cooking grew as did I. However, I will never forget that day, the look in the eyes of the store clerks and the joy it brought me in preparing those cup cakes. It’s a thrill I still feel when cooking for people today.

 

Earning My Chops

With food as my passion, it’s no wonder I’ve been working in the industry since I was fourteen. I began my career under the apprenticeship of Chef John Folse who provided me a firm foundation in both cooking and in business. Later, I was employed with Piccadilly Cafeterias as a production manager learning the ins and outs of feeding large quantities of people. As managing partner at Jumelle’s in Baton Rouge, I truly established myself as a chef and in 2000, I closed the restaurant to pursue my gourmet catering business full time. Since then, I’ve not looked back. I am very blessed to have forged great friendships through my cooking and have a dedicated customer base that keeps me ever striving to reward their patronage with the best food and service in the region.

 

 

The International Cajun Ambassador

These days, I often take a break from working on the front lines of my business and act as a traveling chef for the Louisiana Office of Tourism. Each year I fly to various countries around the world introducing Louisiana’s unique culinary specialties to people everywhere. Just some of the countries I have had the pleasure of visiting include Canada, Columbia, France, Germany, Korea, Mexico, Switzerland and Taiwan, not to mention hundreds of places across the United States. This job is not only rewarding in the sense that I get to introduce Louisiana to the world, but I also bring back a variety of international techniques and cooking styles to my customers here at home. These new ideas are constantly popping up to ensure my menus stay fresh, exciting and above all, delicious!

 

A Goodbye Kiss

I hope you’ve enjoyed learning a little about my background and what inspired me to be who I am today. I thank Daddy and Grandma Tute for their inspiration and still think of them quite often, especially around the holidays. You see, desserts were Grandma Tute’s specialty and one of Daddy and my favorites was something she called “Kisses.” Similar to sea-foam divinity, she would make these treats with fresh pecans and keep them in a jar on the buffet in her dining room. I remember she would put a piece of wax paper between the lid and jar to keep them extra fresh, even though we all knew they’d be gone by night fall. The jar, which became a family heirloom, is usually still filled with some type of candy in our home today. But at Christmastime each year, it’s stuffed to the rim with kisses. (And yes, there is most certainly wax paper between the jar and the lid to keep them extra fresh.) So stop by my office in December and you’ll probably find that jar on my desk filled with the sweet memories of my childhood at Grandma Tute’s in the country.

 

Grandma Tute’s “Kisses”

From the Kitchen of Thelma “Tute” Dupre Bergeron

– 2 egg whites

– Pinch of salt

– ¼ teaspoon cream of tartar

– ¾ cup sugar

– 1 cup pecans, chopped

– 1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Beat egg whites till foamy. Add salt and cream of tartar and continue beating until eggs are stiff enough to hold peaks. Add 2 tablespoons of sugar at a t time, beating after each addition. Fold in nuts and vanilla. Drop by teaspoon on parchment paper. Bake for 20-25 minutes.

Note: For a variation, try brown sugar.

Yours truly,

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