Tony Chachere shared ‘the flavor of his heart’

Published 6:42 am Wednesday, March 16, 2022

By Rita Lebleu

American Press

Tony Chachere’s Famous Creole Cuisine is celebrating its 50th anniversary. Fifty years ago, the company began as a retirement hobby and a life-long dream come true for the company’s namesake, Tony Chachere — noted sportsman, chef and bon vivant of Opelousas.

“He lived to cook and socialize over food, and he didn’t just cook at this camp, but everywhere he went,” said Amanda Smith, a spokesperson for the company. “He had a knack for feeling at home with everyone and making everyone feel at home. Though he had no formal training, he called himself ‘The Ole Master’ — and the name stuck.”

As he made his unsurpassed culinary delicacies for friends and family, he’d exclaim, “Tonight, I’m gonna make ‘em cry,” and always dreamed of one day writing a cookbook full of recipes of his beloved native cuisine.

In 1972, after Chachere retired for a second time, the 65-year-old did just that – writing and publishing his now infamous “Cajun Country Cookbook.” He sold the first 10,000 copies out of the back of his station wagon within weeks. Among the many recipes in the book was that of his favorite homemade seasoning. The recipe has not changed since its inception. The most popular recipe in his cookbook is Tony Chachere’s Easy Gumbo.

“He was constantly getting requests for the recipe and decided to give it to everyone,” Smith said. “He wanted to share the flavor of his heart.”

Chachere semi-retired (again) in 1981, at the age of 76, though he continued to develop new products and perfect his recipes. The development process always starts with an idea, according to Smith. It fills a market need. It could be something as simple as a flavor combination the team can’t stop thinking about.

Tony Chachere’s Famous Creole Cuisine has a food scientist on staff who develops the base formulations. Then a core group of internal employees who know the flavor profile “inside and out taste test again and again.”

“We really trust our guts and rely on internal feedback, and it has served us extremely well thus far,” Smith said.

The seasoning has been used in dozens of cookbooks and cooking contests and even a couple of movies. In March 1995, Chachere was honored as the first inductee into the Louisiana Chefs Hall of Fame. He passed away one week later; three months shy of his 90th birthday.

Now, 50 years after the company’s inception, the Chachere family maintains a tradition of Creole/Cajun authenticity in every recipe and product. The nationally recognized brand is still family-owned-and-operated, led by multiple generations of the Chachere family. With Chachere’s grandson Don at the helm, the company has reached new heights. It is still operated in Opelousas, Louisiana, but now in a 150,000 square-foot facility with more than 100 full-time employees.

“What started as my great-grandfather’s life-long dream has now become a devoted mission for four generations of the Chachere family,” said Celeste Chachere, director of marketing for Tony Chachere’s. “Making the flavors of his beloved Cajun and Creole cuisine accessible to the world beyond Louisiana is what Mr. Tony was most passionate about, and we are continually looking for new ways to bring more flavor to every meal people eat, just as he always dreamed.”

Various chefs use Tony Chachere’s seasoning in their recipes. This recipe is from Chef Nikki Shaw, who loves creating great recipes using Tony’s.

Dirty Birdy Creole Casserole

Servings: 4

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cook time: 50 minutes

Ingredients

1 box (8 oz) Tony Chachere’s Creole Dirty Rice Dinner Mix

1 ⅓ cups chicken broth

1 can (10.5 oz) cream of chicken or cream of mushroom soup

1 ½ cups small broccoli florets

¼ teaspoon Tony Chachere’s Original Creole Seasoning

Nonstick spray

6 boneless chicken thighs, cut in half

½ cup shredded cheddar cheese

Preparation

  1. Preheat oven
  2. In a large bowl, add Tony Chachere’s Creole Dirty Rice Dinner. Mix chicken broth, soup, broccoli florets and Tony Chachere’s Original Creole Seasoning and mix well.
  3. Lightly coat an 11x8x2-inch baking dish with nonstick spray. Pour the rice mixture into the pan and place chicken pieces evenly over the mixture. Lightly season chicken with Tony Chachere’s Original Creole Seasoning. Cover the pan with foil.
  4. Bake for 50 minutes or until all ingredients are fully done. Remove the pan from the oven and remove foil. Immediately sprinkle cheese evenly on top and allow it to melt before serving.