Alzina’s Kitchen, a legend of Cajun cooking, will return with the subsequent era | The place NOLA Eats

Alzina Toups, 94, sat on the head of an extended lunch desk at her great-grandson’s restaurant, Kajun Twist & Grill in Lockport. It was crammed with household, together with those that at the moment are carrying her legacy ahead.

Whereas the household handed round Melamine platters of fried trout and duck tenderloin strips, Toups flipped by one of many spiral-bound cookbooks she wrote 40 years in the past. She pointed to the names printed beneath a number of the recipes, the names of long-ago neighbors on Bayou Lafourche who contributed to it.

They had been the elders again then, she mentioned, and he or she hung out with them, studying recipes for redfish courtbouillon, shrimp jambalaya or duck soup that they ready by instinct as a substitute of measurements and shared together with her in Cajun French.

“I revered them, I admired them and I cherished them as a result of they ready the way in which for us,” Toups mentioned in a comfortable, certain voice. “I really feel that is what I did for our household, too — ready the way in which.”

Toups is greatest recognized for Alzina’s Kitchen, situated one other 20 miles down the bayou in Galliano. It’s a vacation spot for personal meals and group outings that has turn out to be a low-key legend for Cajun cooking and lured trustworthy regulars from far and vast.



Solar shines by holes within the ceiling at Alzina’s Kitchen, a Cajun meals vacation spot in Galliano broken by Hurricane Ida. (Photograph by Chris Granger | The Instances-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate)




It has been out of fee since Hurricane Ida ravaged this a part of southeast Louisiana final summer season.



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The letter’s spelling Alzina’s Kitchen are gone however their outlines stay on the previous welding store that has been house to this Cajun meals vacation spot for many years. (Photograph by Chris Granger | The Instances-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate)




Toups’ days within the kitchen there are completed. She has retired, a choice she made even earlier than the catastrophe.

Now, although, her household is getting ready to carry Alzina’s Kitchen again to life. Her granddaughters Jenny Toups Stevens and Tish Toups plan to renew dinners by February, pending repairs to its storm-damaged construction.

“It is so vital to my grandmother that we do that,” mentioned Stevens. “There’s a lot love and respect for her, I do not see how we could not do it.”



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Jenny Toups Stevens (left) talks together with her grandmother Alzina Toups, seated, throughout a household lunch on the Kajun Twist & Grill in Lockport. (Photograph by Chris Granger | The Instances-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate)




That return is unfolding as youthful generations of this tight-knit household open new chapters in a long-running Louisiana meals story.

Household cooking

The identify says all of it. Alzina’s Kitchen isn’t actually a restaurant. Since its begin in 1977, it has been a spot to expertise how Alzina Toups cooks, and the way a bayou nation household eats.



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On this picture from 2006, Alzina Toups talks with company Maria Valbuna, Melissa Harbar, Joann Staub and Jennifer Weidig earlier than they serve their very own meal at Alzina’s Kitchen in Galliano.(Employees picture from the Instances-Picayune archive by Susan Poag)




Alzina’s Kitchen serves a homestyle Cajun meal for one group every night time, with reservations sometimes booked many months out. Some folks go to as an annual pilgrimage. For many company, a go to entails a street journey; for some, worldwide journey.

It’s housed in a steel constructing with no home windows, no signal out entrance and no separation between the cafeteria-like dinner tables and the kitchen.



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On this picture from 2006, company start their meal at Alzina’s Kitchen in Galliano, which hosts non-public teams for household fashion Cajun meals. (Employees picture from the Instances-Picayune archive by Susan Poag)




A meal might run by shrimp gumbo (made with okra however no roux), smothered pork loin, black eyed pea jambalaya, rooster and shrimp fricassee, candy potatoes cooked with Amaretto, the deceptively-named brown sugar shrimp (in a garlicky tomato sauce), scorching dinner rolls and walnut tart. It’s BYOB for something stronger than home-brewed iced tea.



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On this picture from 2006, Alzina Toups, far proper, joins arms together with her company to wish earlier than their meal at Alzina’s Kitchen in Galliano. (Employees picture from the Instances-Picayune archive by Susan Poag)




Folks serve themselves from the platters and pans. By the top of the meal, company would possibly assist wash the dishes. They’re inspired to carry containers to take house any leftovers.

A part of the expertise was at all times Alzina Toups herself, who shared tales of bayou life and the meals traditions that run by it.



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On this picture from 2006, Cajun cook dinner Alzina Toups works in inside Alzina’s Kitchen in Galliano, which was in-built a transformed welding store. (Employees picture from the Instances-Picayune archive by Susan Poag)




“I wished my company to know the way the Cajuns stay,” she mentioned. “The individuals who got here received to study a Cajun group, the place we come from, who we’re, how we eat, what our meals means.”

At all times a cook dinner

The slender street resulting in Alzina’s Kitchen seems to be like one of many many small streets branching off the pure excessive floor flanking the bayou. However round right here it’s referred to as “the household lane.” It’s lined by houses occupied by Toups relations, a few of whom have merely traded addresses over time.



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Alzina Toups’ house, again left, is subsequent door to her longtime enterprise Alzina’s Kitchen, proper, in Galliano, the place the great-great-grandchildren of the legendary Cajun cook dinner trip bikes outdoors. (Photograph by Chris Granger | The Instances-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate)




Alzina Toups was raised within the clapboard cottage going through the bayou, a small house that was blown down by Ida. Now she lives two doorways down.



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On this picture from 2006, Cajun cook dinner Alzina Toups works in inside Alzina’s Kitchen in Galliano, tending a shrimp pasta casserole and shrimp fricassee. (Employees picture from the Instances-Picayune archive by Susan Poag)




She has by no means run a standard restaurant and eschews the time period chef. She is a cook dinner. Certainly one of her proudest abilities was her capability to debone a rooster in 4 minutes flat.

Lengthy earlier than Alzina’s Kitchen, she and her late husband, David, ran a shrimp trawler collectively, working the Gulf waters as far out as Texas. She cooked for her prolonged household, with Sunday meals bringing all the youngsters collectively. She at all times cooked breakfasts for clergy at her church. When clergymen visited from different parishes, she would placed on massive, homestyle spreads for them.



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On this picture from 2006, Cajun cook dinner Alzina Toups checks a recipe inside Alzina’s Kitchen in Galliano. (Employees picture from the Instances-Picayune archive by Susan Poag)




Alzina’s Kitchen developed after her son Anthony Toups determined to transform his former welding store subsequent to the household house right into a kitchen, giving his mom a house base for these group meals. As phrase of her prowess with bayou flavors unfold, it grew into an everyday vacation spot for deliberate non-public dinners, with teams of a half dozen or greater than 20 making the trek for the shared meal.

A meals household



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Alyssa Matherne hugs together with her kids Camellia and Jax  contained in the hurricane-damaged eating room of Alzina’s Kitchen, the Cajun meals vacation spot began by her great-grandmother Alzina Toups. (Photograph by Chris Granger | The Instances-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate)




Each Thursday we provide the scoop on NOLA eating. Enroll right this moment.

Bayou nation cities like Galliano had been among the many hardest hit when Hurricane Ida struck as a Class 4 storm in August. 4 months later, they current a tattered tableau of injury, with blue tarps over metal roofs, constructing fronts ripped away to disclose doll house-like views and full constructions crumbled.



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Alyssa Matherne stands by the door of Alzina’s Kitchen. The consuming vacation spot in Galliano began by her great-grandmother Alzina Toups was broken in Hurricane Ida however is coming again. (Photograph by Chris Granger | The Instances-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate)




The Toups household counts themselves comparatively fortunate. Nobody within the household was harm. Alzina’s Kitchen, although broken, continues to be standing. One great-granddaughter and her household who can’t but transfer again to their very own broken house reside in a trailer proper beside it.

Worse off are different companies below the prolonged household umbrella. The household has had many eating places by the years, together with some that predate Alzina’s Kitchen.



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Anthony Toups, son of Cajun cook dinner Alzina Toups, discusses the household’s lengthy historical past with Louisiana eating places throughout lunch at Kajun Twist & Grill in Lockport. (Photograph by Chris Granger | The Instances-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate)




Anthony Toups began it off again within the early Seventies when he purchased a comfort retailer within the oil city of Port Fourchon, renamed it Kajun Mart and began including sandwiches and plate lunches. Ultimately he opened a devoted restaurant referred to as Kajun Twist in Galliano, simply throughout the bayou from Alzina’s Kitchen.

Later got here the eating places Barataria in Grand Isle and Toupsie’s Kajun Eatery in Port Fourchon, and he expanded to New Orleans for a time. He had Alzina’s on the Lake within the West Finish within the Eighties and, later, Anatole downtown on St. Charles Avenue.

The unique Kajun Twist was wrecked by Hurricane Ida, and the household plans to rebuild.



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Lunch is a mixture of diner staples and Louisiana flavors at Kajun Twist & Grill in Lockport. (Photograph by Chris Granger | The Instances-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate)




Its a lot newer offshoot, although, Kajun Twist & Grill in Lockport, was capable of reopen simply weeks after the hurricane. It had simply debuted earlier in 2021, with Alzina’s great-grandson Anthony Goldsmith on the helm. With the opposite companies sidelined, that is the place a number of family members at the moment are working.

It’s a diner-style restaurant, with fried seafood platters and burgers, whereas Goldsmith additionally makes specials that faucet into older household recipes, just like the rouxless gumbo and shrimp fricassee.



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Hen and sausage gumbo is ready with no roux at Kajun Twist & Grill in Lockport, following a household custom from proprietor Anthony Goldsmith. (Employees picture by Ian McNulty, Nola.com | The Instances-Picayune)


“He is the one particular person in our household with a school diploma, and right here he’s flipping hamburgers,” mentioned Goldsmith’s grandmother, Rebecca Toups, with light chiding.

However Goldsmith, 31, sees it in a different way.

“Cooking is the one factor I ever wished to do,” he mentioned. “I missed the meals, and it was dying away. Numerous youthful folks aren’t studying the standard recipes. I need to assist preserve that alive.”



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Jenny Toups Stevens at work at Kajun Twist & Grill in Lockport, the primary restaurant her household might reopen after Hurricane Ida. Stevens plans to reopen the acclaimed Alzina’s Kitchen in Galliano. (Photograph by Chris Granger | The Instances-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate)




Within the coming 12 months, he plans to develop the menu with extra household dishes, together with an assortment from the previous Toupsie’s, like seafood crepes, stuffed potatoes and crabmeat casserole.

“One other world”



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Jenny Toups Stevens has cooked together with her grandmother Alzina Toups for a few years and is reopening her legendary Alzina’s Kitchen. She and different relations had been at work at Kajun Twist & Grill in Lockport throughout a lunch that gathered 5 generations of Toups relations. (Photograph by Chris Granger | The Instances-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate)




Stevens, 44, and her sister Tish Toups, 50, had been taking up progressively extra of the operation at Alzina’s Kitchen earlier than their grandmother absolutely retired. Like different family members, they’d labored there in some capability since they had been children.

Stevens began culinary faculty when she was youthful however left, realizing she was getting a extra invaluable schooling at her grandmother’s facet.



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Again in her cooking days, Cajun meals legend Alzina Toups would typically sit on this chair within the bar space and greet diners coming to Alzina’s Kitchen in Galliano. (Photograph by Chris Granger | The Instances-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate)




“It was concerning the time we spent collectively as a lot as something I discovered — that high quality, alone time together with her,” she mentioned.

“It looks like one other world once I stroll in there. It is so peaceable, nothing else issues. My cellphone would not even work in there, so it is simply this time to focus on what we’re doing, what we have discovered.”



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Footage of the previous three Popes hold on the wall close to the bar inside Alzina’s Kitchen, the Cajun meals vacation spot in  Galliano. (Photograph by Chris Granger | The Instances-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate)




Right now, Stevens is worked up to carry Alzina’s Kitchen again, and he or she has some new concepts to develop whereas sustaining its conventional, family-style format.

She needs so as to add packaged meals for fast daytime service, a means for folks to get a style of the household’s cooking with out reserving the complete dinner. Her grandmother has endorsed the thought.



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Legendary Cajun cook dinner Alzina Toups, left, will get a kiss from her good friend Aline Bruce throughout lunch on the Kajun Twist & Grill in Lockport. (Photograph by Chris Granger | The Instances-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate)




Right now, when the household gathers, they speak of gutting homes and timelines for insurance coverage proceeds and which contractors are returning calls. In addition they speak of meals and household and the entwined rhythms that carry the 2 collectively.

Throughout that lunch in Lockport, Alzina Toups seemed lovingly across the desk, the place 5 generations of her household had been seated, all the way in which right down to her great-great-grandchildren Jax and Camellia Matherne. Stevens typically sprang as much as serve one other desk, and Goldsmith saved ferrying extra platters from the kitchen. However then everybody was again once more, to speak, and to eat.



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On this picture from 2006, Cajun cook dinner Alzina Toups, far proper, checks the fricassee at Alzina’s Kitchen in Galliano. (Employees picture from the Instances-Picayune archive by Susan Poag)




“My coronary heart is leaping with pleasure,” Alzina Toups mentioned quietly. “Due to them, I do know folks will probably be having fun with my recipes for a very long time.”

Alzina’s Kitchen anticipates reopening in February 2022. To inquire about bookings, name or textual content (985) 696-7708.

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