Brothers parlay love of cooking into successful business venture

Published 11:45 pm Friday, May 18, 2012



LAPLACE – A little more than two years ago, LaPlace resident John Rodrigue parlayed a love of cooking into a homegrown spice business that has reached the shelves of two major regional supermarket chains.

“I like to cook quite a bit and a like to use a lot of different spice mixes that are out there,” Rodrigue said. “The only problem is that many of the options contain as much as 50 to 75 percent salt. I could never get the cooking right. It either came out with not enough spice or way too much salt.”

In his home kitchen, Rodrigue worked out a blend of various spices for a Cajun seasoning that he first tried out on family. The mix caught the tongue of Rodrigue’s brother Preston, who often caters events with his large grill. About six months later, Brother John Foods was born with Frère Jean Cajun Seasoning as the marquee product.

“The mix is blended by Gulf Coast Blenders in New Orleans and bottled and labeled in Jackson, Miss.,” Rodrigue said. “We started small, selling on the Internet, but we also sent samples everywhere we could. It was slow getting started, but we kept working at it.”

Rodrigue said Matherne’s Supermarket was the first to pick up on the spices, adding the company’s original salt-free seasoning and a low sodium seafood seasoning to store shelves. He said Rouses Supermarket followed soon after, putting the spices into 36 more stores across the Gulf South.

“We had always been in smaller stores in the area, but the supermarkets have expanded our reach,” said Preston Rodrigue. “The product has been wildly popular at stores on the Northshore. Some places can’t keep it on the shelves.”

The biggest news for the Rodrigue’s, however, came this past January, when the Winn Dixie chain of markets came calling.

“Last November we set up an appointment with their product manager in Jacksonville, Fla.,” John Rodrigue said. “They have a reach that goes across the south, and there are still an assortment of former Louisiana residents who relocated after Hurricane Katrina.”

Rodrigue said he was notified in January that the original seasoning, the seafood seasoning and a new “Sweet and Cajun” seasoning will be added to 67 Winn Dixie stores across the south.

“It actually became effective Saturday,” Rodrigue said. “We have been non-stop since then.”

Originally from Portsmouth, Va., Rodrigue, 61, said his military family moved throughout the United States before settling in LaPlace in 1966. He and his brother, 63, both attended Southeastern University in Hammond, and both enlisted in the military before coming home to work at Shell in Norco. Preston retired in 2003 and John in 2009. Their main focus now has become their burgeoning spice business.

“It’s difficult to stop,” Rodrigue said. “We are always involved in something, and we are still looking at other unique ideas to expand things further.