Chef Spotlight: Gilbert Decourt

by Elizabeth Rose

Cajundome's Decourt shows the motherland how to make a real Cajun roux.

Cajundome's Decourt shows the motherland how to make a real Cajun roux. By Elizabeth Rose

November 2012

From left, chefs Adam Brenner, Tod MacIntyre, Gilbert Decourt, Troy Baglole and
Alexei Boldireff

Gilbert Decourt, who by accident settled in the Hub City in 1980, has since moved up the restaurant ranks to represent Lafayette in the annual Nova Scotian 10-day food festival where chefs are challenged to blend the cooking traditions of Nova Scotia with those of their home regions.

Decourt, the food and beverage director at Artisan Creative Catering at the Cajundome, was one of 10 chefs who worked with teams of local chefs and apprentices at the third annual Right Some Good foodie adventure in Cape Breton Island Aug. 18-26. The teams were charged with the task of creating a four-course meal that incorporated four local ingredients: whole lamb, double-smoked pork belly, jalapeño pepper jelly and mussels. The menu had to blend both Nova Scotian culinary traditions as well as each chef's local culinary traditions. Decourt says there were many similarities between Nova Scotian and Acadian cultures - it is the motherland for many, after all.

"Around here, you see crawfish traps - there you see lobster traps," laughs Decourt, 57. Lafayette became the award-winning chef's home 32 yeas ago after a restaurant venture in Houston fell through. A graduate of the Culinary Institute in Nice, France, Decourt stopped in Lafayette on his way to Houston and stayed.

Nova Scotia is well known for its seafood, which Decourt incorporated into his meal as well. Each night of the festival, chefs from Miami and Los Angeles to China, Ireland, England, Switzerland, Peru and India showcased his meal. The event allowed all to blend their cultures with local ingredients for those willing to try something truly new. "People are very curious by nature, especially about food," Decourt says.

When it was Decourt's turn, he began with a gumbo of lobsters, local oysters and lamb. One of the apprentices on Decourt's team had never made a roux - and Decourt put him on the stove for five hours to perfect the dark brown base. Second was a local trout with jalapeño sweet potatoes and the double-smoked pork belly - braised. For the main course: a honey-roasted lamb leg stuffed with local chanterelle mushrooms alongside a rosemary skewer with radishes and beets and a white-bean-and-corn fricassee. Dessert was a South Louisiana classic: chocolate bread pudding.

"I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of product," says Decourt. "Everything was from local farmers, and it made a big difference. Give me something great, I'll give you something great."