A taste of history: Spuddy’s Cajun Cooking Experience coming to Destrehan Plantation

Published 9:53 am Wednesday, April 19, 2023

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DESTREHAN — Groups that tour Destrehan Plantation are accustomed to seeing and hearing the history of the region. Soon, they will have a chance to taste the history of the River Parishes through a new partnership between Destrehan Plantation and Spuddy’s Cajun Cooking Experience.

Maitland “Spuddy” Faucheux will prepare authentic South Louisiana dishes in Destrehan Plantation’s Mule Barn using the same cooking techniques his ancestors used more than a century ago. Whether Faucheux prepares jambalaya, gumbo, etouffee or another locally inspired dish, guests can be assured lunch will be cooked to perfection and served with an unforgettable history lesson.

The combo package includes a tour of Destrehan Plantation and will be available for booking after August 1 for $80 per person plus tax. According to Destrehan Plantation’s Executive Director Tracy Smith, the Cajun Cooking Experience will be open to groups of 35 or more and must be booked at least 30 days in advance. Smith said the 193-year-old cypress Mule Barn can easily accommodate groups of 50 to 150 people with room to spare.

“People that visit this region are very interested in the food that we prepare in South Louisiana, and Spuddy is a very entertaining person when he’s cooking. We thought this would offer visitors a combination of experiences unique to this region in one location,” Smith said.

Faucheux started the Cajun Cooking Experience in 2019 as a way to take his business in a new direction.

He originally purchased the Folse Seafood and Meat Market in 1993 and transformed it into Vacherie’s only dine-in restaurant. Spuddy’s Cajun Foods became a favorite among locals, but roadway developments connecting the Veterans Memorial Bridge to 3127 led to the restaurant being bypassed as business declined by 70%.

From 2014 to 2019, Faucheux would leave the restaurant at 1 p.m. every weekday to take care of his dad at the Southeast Louisiana Veterans Home in Reserve. It was there he met Robyn Tanner, who was also visiting her dad in the Alzheimer’s unit. Faucheux invited Tanner into his kitchen one Monday morning to learn how to cook a jambalaya, and she told him other people would love to have an opportunity to cook Cajun food with a true Cajun chef.

The Cajun Cooking Experience started in late 2019 and, by January 2020, Faucheux was greeting groups of more than 100 people. While large groups observed cooking demonstrations, small groups were hands on in the kitchen, learning to prepare Andouille and other Cajun delicacies.

The COVID-19 pandemic struck abruptly just a few months later. Every time the Cajun Cooking Experience resumed in the subsequent months, it seemed to be shut down just as quickly as new COVID variants spiked. Faucheux adapted to the curveballs by starting a virtual cooking show on Facebook Live. He dove into archives on Newspapers.com, examining old recipes to learn about the history of the foods he was cooking.

Then Hurricane Ida struck, and it took the better part of a year for Faucheux to repair his home and his store.

Faucheux first connected with Smith at Destrehan Plantation during the recovery process.

“We talked about it at the time. Everything has just evolved naturally over the past couple of years and clicked into place,” he said. “I was born in St. Charles Parish, and I live in St. James Parish. I was born and raised with all these cultures. I know this area, so I’m very comfortable making these presentations.”

Faucheux said the Cajun Cooking Experience stands apart with simple, clean cooking that’s entirely farm to table.

“We shop all of our own ingredients. We don’t break out the fancy seasoning. We season our food with salt and pepper the way our ancestors did,” Faucheux said. “People had to live off the land, especially out here. It wasn’t like in New Orleans, where people could go to the French Market to get what they needed.”
Faucheux also loves to share how Cajun cooking traditions arose from a variety of cultures, from African, German and French influences. His cooking experiences never include secret recipes or withheld ingredients.

“I want this tradition to pass on,” Faucheux said. “I want the next generation and the one after that to know our culture and know our food. I see it dying and it scares the hell out of me. I want someone to pick up that torch.”

Combo tours at Destrehan Plantation will be available starting in August. In the meantime, Spuddy’s Cajun Cooking Experience is available to visitors at 2644 Highway 20 in Vacherie. For more information, visit cajuncookingexperience.com or follow the Spuddy’s Cajun Cooking Experience Facebook page.

Destrehan Plantation has upcoming events related to the region’s culture and history, including Heritage Day, scheduled for 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday, April 28 at 13034 River Road in Destrehan. During the family-friendly event, guests can enjoy demonstrations of butter making, candle dipping, needlework, trapping, and many other “old-time” activities while listening to 19th Century music under the shade of historic oak trees. For more information, visit Destrehan plantation.org or call 985-764-9315 ext. 3.