CHANEL GAUDÉ, WHO WORKED HER WAY FROM WAIT STAFF TO SOUS CHEF IN ONE OF LAFAYETTE’S BEST RESTAURANTS, IS PASSIONATE ABOUT LOUISIANA FOODS.
Chanel Gaudé began waiting tables as a way to make ends meet while working on an undergraduate degree in anthropology at UL Lafayette. After graduating in 2010, Gaudé continued to work as a server and was offered an opportunity to work in the kitchen.
“I waited tables throughout college and after I graduated while trying to figure out the next step,” says Gaudé, a 29-year-old from Covington. “While I was serving at iMonelli, the salad guy quit and I needed extra income. I gradually transitioned fulltime into the kitchen.”
After working at iMonelli’s kitchen for a year, Gaudé joined Village Café in River Ranch as Executive Chef Jeremy Conner’s sous chef in 2012.
“The first time I applied at Village [Café], Jeremy didn’t hire me,” says Gaudé. “He’ll tell you that and laugh now. I was about to leave for Asia for a couple of months, so I understood. But I reapplied when I got back and couldn’t wish for a better job.”
Since joining the River Ranch restaurant — which was purchased in late March by former Charley’s G’s General Manager Courtney Vincent and businessman Walter Hidalgo, who have renamed it De Gaulle Square Bistro and Bar — Gaudé has become intimate with the Acadiana food scene, including the ever-popular pop-up dinner movement. Gaudé and Conner regularly host and participate in food events and in November 2014, Gaudé and Ashley Roussel, Saint Street Inn’s chef/kitchen manager and Runaway Dish’s chef/forager, collaborated for the Pig and Plough Suppers’ 2nd Annual Bayou Teche Brewing Roast benefitting St. Joseph Diner. They roasted Bayou Farm lambs and served fried Gotreaux Family Farms purple sweet potato pies, among other dishes.
Gaudé’s love of travel and of locally grown foods is a testament to her ability to acclimate — a trait key to being a successful chef. And her knack for creating dishes with what is seasonally available is a trait sought after by local food-loving patrons. “We’ve adapted a really dynamic menu style,” says Gaudé. “Sometimes it’s just one dish on or off; other times we give the menu a complete makeover. It really depends on what meats and produce are available to us and what meats and produce we aren’t able to get a hold of anymore.”
Staying true to the claim of supporting local farms, Gaudé and Conner regularly source locally grown meats and produce from Lafayette area farms including Belle Ecorce, Up to Grow Good, Inglewood Farm, Gotreaux Family Farms, Market Basket of Youngsville, Mark and Mary’s City Farm, Covey Rise Farms, Wesmar Farms, Belle Ècorce Farms, and Mary Mary Markets.
“[Chanel’s] passion for local foods is best seen in how much she appreciates the people who grow or produce them,” says Mary Patout, owner of Mary Mary Markets. “I see that she respects the product, the producer and the customers who enjoy the restaurant’s offerings, and it’s really a joy to grow sprouts with [De Gaulle Square Bistro and Bar] and Chanel in mind.”
Tyler F. Thigpen is an ecologist and co-coordinator of Pig & Plough Suppers, a slow foods dinner series celebrating our Louisiana foodways by promoting chef collaborations that feature foods grown and raised in South Louisiana.