Alex Patout was born and raised in New Iberia, Louisiana near Avery Island, the home of Tabasco Sauce, in the heart of Cajun Country. Noted primarily for its rice and sugar cane crops, New Iberia is a citadel of Cajun cuisine.
Patout will tell you that he did not grow up in the kitchen, but that he has 178 years of culinary experience. A chef, a restaurateur, food purveyor and media personality, Patout has a firm understanding of Louisiana’s Creole and Cajun cooking styles. “You have home-style Louisiana cooking, and then you have a restaurant you are trying to run successfully, with an ongoing evolution of cooking. This cooking has to change and develop, not really away from home-style but beyond it.”
The Patout’s of Louisiana date back to 1828 when the first Patout came from France with the hopes of establishing a world-class vineyard on a 4,000 acres land grant. Unfortunately, grapes did not take well to the hot, humid climate, so the Patout’s turned to sugar cane, a crop the French had mastered well in climates as far off as the Indian Ocean. This provided the income for a vast clan of Louisiana Patout’s to thrive and perfect the wizardry of keeping every member of the family well fed.
Stories of his grandmother and her long hours of cooking at the Old Frederic Hotel in New Iberia in the early 1900’s, and of his fathers futile struggle throughout the 60’s with his restaurant in New Iberia spurred Patout to attend college and earn his B.A. in accounting from University of Southwestern Louisiana in Lafayette. Yet memories of his parents and grandparents cooking finally got the best of him, and soon he was pooling his accounting knowledge, securing funds and opening his own restaurant in New Iberia.
Patout is a savvy businessman and an avid family spokesperson who feels comfortable in the spotlight. He opened his first restaurant in 1978 in New Iberia at the crest of the fascination with Cajun cuisine. By the 1980’s Alex Patout began to attract national attention. He was invited to cook for the President of the United States, whose guests included the President of France and the Prime Ministers of Great Britain, Italy, Germany and Japan. Food & Wine Magazine proclaimed him one the “Top 25 Chefs in America”, and Esquire Magazine named him one of the “Men Under 40 Who Were Changing America.” Random House offered him a book contract and foodies from around the world were finding Patout’s New Iberia restaurant their Mecca for Cajun and Creole cuisine.
By 1988 Louisiana’s oil economy had taken a downturn and the Patout’s New Iberia restaurant closed forcing Alex Patout to strike out on his own. He moved to New Orleans. He and his new wife Marcia opened Alex Patout’s Louisiana Restaurant in the French Quarter. It thrived for sixteen years and was considered a mainstay in New Orleans. Patout developed a successful line of Louisiana food products. Pizza Hut chose his Andouille Sausage for their Cajun Meat Lover pizzas.
That was all before the storm.
New Orleans proved no-match for Hurricane Katrina, closing Alex Patout’s Louisiana Restaurant and forcing the Patout’s to find a new home. Alex and Marcia Patout traveled to Miami with the hope of continuing their beloved family business. The good thing about history is that it is unlike the monuments and landmarks that disappear forever. Sometimes it’s the living history that perseveres through time and travail. And the Patout’s found a family in the owners of a soon to open New Orleans style restaurant in Coconut Grove, Christabelle’s Quarter.
A stickler for the freshest sea foods, vegetables, fruits and spices, Patout spent two years in Miami meeting growers from the Redlands, local fishermen, and purveyors to assure freshness at all levels. Of particular interest to Patout was where to find fresh okra in Miami. Okra is a fruit of a large vegetable plant thought to be of African origin. Patout found new friends in the Redlands willing to grow his okra, all he had to do was to bring them seeds from Louisiana, which he did promptly.
But Louisiana is home and once Alex had completed his contract with Christabelle’s Quarter, he and Marcia moved to New Iberia. Consulting jobs kept Alex busy until he met Dave and Grace Landry of Landry’s of New Iberia.