A hidden treasure awaits those traveling down a quiet residential street on Bayou Lafourche. However, from the main road, many locals and most tourists would never know it.
The metal building’s unassuming nature would not draw your attention. At one time, a sign proudly hung announcing Alzina's Kitchen. This once welding shop turned kitchen is where Ms. Alzina Toups, (and a few family members who help her out), create mouthwatering dishes that would make a grown man cry.
Ms. Alzina gained national notoriety over the years. Articles about the "Bayou Mama" are in the best of the best food and garden magazines such as Southern Living, Country Roads, and more.
In 2013, Toups received the prestigious Southern Foodways Keeper of the Flame award.
This Queen of the Bayou has an incredible talent for making some of Louisiana's most notable Cajun dishes. She is about to add another notch to her apron when her cooking perfection appears on Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern on Tuesday, August 1.
In an interview, Zimmern once said, “I’ve tried to cook with her for the last 10 years and it just hasn’t worked out, but I finally got her in a show. I’ve cooked for presidents, I’ve cooked for kings, I’ve cooked for famous chefs with umpteen Michelin stars and I didn’t get nervous—but Alzina was different.”
You can read more of the interview at http://andrewzimmern.com/2017/01/31/5-questions-andrew-zimmern.
Alzina's Kitchen is not a restaurant in the traditional sense of the word. She books only one private party at a time. Her tables provide a quaint gathering place where friends and family can come together and enjoy a fabulous array of dishes. Black-eyed pea jambalaya, shrimp lasagna with homemade pasta, braised pork loin, corn bisque, stuffed chicken, and amaretto yams are among her vast repertoire.
Is your mouth watering yet?
A gifted soul and devout Catholic, she opened her kitchen doors in 1977 to cook and serve her church for their deanery meetings. Immeasurable numbers of priests, (both local and international), nuns, and bishops have lined her family style table for decades. Renowned French chefs and other notable figures have made their way to her and admired her masterful culinary art.
Ms. Alzina's paternal ancestors came to Louisiana from Nova Scotia. Her mother and father primarily spoke French in the home. Broken French slides off Alzina's tongue like honey. Her father was a shrimper/oysterman, while her mother wove nets for local anglers and made flower arrangements for their local church. Alzina herself was a shrimper with her late husband long ago. She remembers that fondly.
For years, Alzina used the bed of her father's old truck to grow her fresh herbs. She is sentimental in that regard. Unfortunately, the truck bed gave way long ago from the elements. Now her herbs are growing in pots nestled under the carport of Alzina’s Kitchen.
She favors farmers markets for her vegetables and gets her seafood straight off the boats. Everything must be fresh and cut just so before simmering in the pot.
Those traditions are now passed down to her granddaughters Jenny and Tish, along with her great granddaughter, Alyssa. She has instilled in each of them the adage of authentic Cajun culture, patience, and love, which pour into every pot.
At almost 90 years of age, Alzina's collection of cookware is simple yet remarkable. Wooden spoons, seasoned cast iron skillets, (one of which is more than 100 years old and another one passed down to her by her mother), the ever-trusted Pyrex, a wooden handled can opener and tin measuring cups, all of which are either hung or stacked upon each other lining the shelves. Simplicity is key, no fancy gadgets or "As Seen on TV" cookware are in her kitchen!
No walls separate the cook and her guests. The open forum allows for a much more intimate setting.
When cooking is complete, platters and bowls sit proudly on the table just as they do for a holiday dinner. Food is passed person to person, hand to hand, just as it should be.
Ms. Alzina makes a fabulous Louisiana sweet tea, and who in the world could pass that up! Savor it while you can because once the pitchers of tea are gone, you will get some good old-fashioned water from the kitchen faucet!
Patrons may also bring beer or wine. At the end of the meal, eyes light up when gatherings can bring out their empty containers and fill them with leftovers! Just like at home, some folks even leave the table to help with the dishes! Such a cozy, homey setting, one tenderly remembered by each person who visits.
Alzina is old fashioned, she does not own a computer, and there is no flashy website. Those interested in booking a reservation can call 985-632-7200. Bookings require a minimum of six and maximum of twenty guests.
Be sure to tune in to see Alzina on the Travel Channel with Andrew Zimmern on Tuesday, August 1st!
Posted on Tue, July 25, 2017
by Holly McKeon Contributing Writer