Cast Iron Stories: Chef John Folse

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John Folse
Chef John Folse & Company
Gonzales, Louisiana

Growing up in St. James, Louisiana, as the son of an alligator hunter, I filled my cast-iron pans with swamp delicacies. A favorite ingredient was alligator snapping turtles. A grown snapper could be 2 1⁄2- to 3-feet in diameter and weigh more than 175 pounds. No better eating could be found.

My Uncle Paul told us that turtle meat had seven distinct flavors: beef, lamb, pork, rabbit, chicken, venison, and turtle. He challenged us to identify those flavored pieces as we ate his famous sauce piquante. Uncle Paul would never consider cooking his sauce piquantes, fricassees, or his sought-after crawfish étouffée in anything but his cast-iron pots. He had a pot for every dish, and they were lined up, black, spit-shined, and ready for the next dark-brown roux. He challenged us as young boys to respect the cast-iron pot as the ultimate utensil of a Cajun kitchen; without it, our dishes would be simply American food, but never Cajun or Creole cuisine. We honored those pots then, and we pay homage to them now.

When Uncle Paul passed away many years ago, I was the only professional cook in the family. His heirloom pots were given to me to be cared for, and then handed to the next generation. Today, if you happen to pass by my home in Cajun Country, stop by and view this arsenal of generationally seasoned, dark-black pots. They are lined up the way Uncle Paul demanded and ready to cook another Cajun delicacy.

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