Mary Tutwiler

Catahoula's closes, doggonit

by Mary Tutwiler

Acadiana has one less dining destination. Catahoula’s in Grand Coteau has closed its doors. A victim of the economy and the drive to the historic town in St. Landry Parish, chef and owner Jude Tauzin extinguished his flames for the last time after dinner on Sunday night. “I’ve been struggling for a while. I couldn’t hang on any more,” says Tauzin.

The beautiful restaurant, located in a former general merchandise store, was one of the premier eating establishments in the area. Founded in 1996 by John and Hillary Slaughter, the restaurant featured innovative seafood dishes and huge photographs of Catahoula hounds, shot by photographer John Slaughter. Tauzin, first as chef, then as owner, took the cooking to new heights, garnering accolades from foodie journals like Southern Living and Gourmet magazine.

Several years ago, John D. Slaughter, John and Hillary Slaughter’s son, along with several partners, bought the former DOE’s on Pinhook and renamed it Catahoula’s Steakhouse. From the get-go there was confusion that the two restaurants were related businesses. Their only link was the name. When Catahoula’s Steakhouse closed in December of 2008, customers who had bought gift cards were miffed that they could not use them at the Catahoula’s in Grand Coteau. Ultimately, in a gesture of good will to the community, Tauzin decided to honor the gift cards even though he had no financial stake in their sales. The incident drew some angry letters-to-the-editor in The Independent. Tauzin feels that the gift card fracas left a bad taste in people’s mouths and perhaps contributed to the slowdown in business this spring. In April, John D. Slaughter opened a drive-thru eatery in Carencro, called LA Fish Fry.

Tauzin has been working to place his staff in jobs in the area before finding new opportunities for himself. He says he doesn’t want to leave Acadiana. It would be a shame for such a talented chef to take his knowledge and skills out of the region.

Completely unrelated except through the shared name is the news that Catahoula’s on Pinhook has been purchased by Robert Frugé. The Grand Coteau attorney has his fingers in a lot of pies. He cannot only marry you — he’s a Justice of the Peace — but throw your wedding reception as well. He has just bought the vacant building, renamed it Abacus, and signed on chef Paul Mudge of Jolie’s to cook for catered events in an exclusive arrangement between the two businesses.

“I love my buildings and I love the wedding side of things,” says Frugé. He and his wife Sharon own two other catering facilities, the Grand Coteau House Ballroom and Wolff Banquet and Reception Hall, in Washington, La., both historic buildings they have restored. Abacus will open in July for business.