Behind the shoot at Alzina's Kitchen
Behind the shoot at Alzina's KitchenAugust 19, 2012
Earlier this year we sent New Orleans-based photographer, Cedric Angeles to photograph the legendary Bayou Mama of Lafourche Parish, Alzina Toups. From the arrival at the very unassuming restaurant, to entering her home, to feasting on the best cuisine in Cajun country, Cedric shares his experience with one of the most talented women in Southern cooking.
Cedric Angeles (left) and his assistant Rush Jagoe (right) with Alzina in her kitchen
WHAT WERE YOUR FIRST THOUGHTS WHEN YOU ARRIVED AT ALZINA'S?
I could not find the restaurant at first. The sign is actually falling off the exterior and if you do not know about this restaurant, you will not even guess that one of the best cooks in the country is cooking in a building that still looks like a welding shop. But I do love how it is so unassuming and hard to find. I am sure Alzina never meant it that way, which is another beautiful thing.
WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST IMPRESSION OF ALZINA?
She was smiling when we first met her. And of course, even without saying anything, I liked her already. It felt like I was visiting my mom and she is about to cook my favorite meals.
ANY LESSON LEARNED?
My father has always reminded me that a simple life is the best life. I have strived to follow that rule. Meeting Alzina reinforces that belief. She has a gift, and she realizes that sharing her gift of cooking is what makes her happy. She mentioned that she could have made the restaurant bigger, made more money but she did not want to do it. She wanted to keep it small
TELL US ABOUT THE MEAL
We never realized that she was actually cooking our lunch. We thought that she was cooking for some guests that night after the shoot. We finished shooting the food and she sat us down and we had lunch together. The photo of the table was exactly how it looked when we were eating. And no words to really describe how good the food tasted. It wasn't heavy at all, as what you would expect in Cajun cooking. We talked about family, about life, food…oh, and crime shows.
DID YOU HAVE A FAVORITE DISH?
Amaretto yams, the stuffed chicken, the black-eyed pea jambalaya......And she packed us food to take home after lunch!
HIGHLIGHT OF THE DAY
She invited us to her home which is directly across the street from the restaurant. I always love being able to go inside the subject's house. Usually, the best portraits I take happen inside the home. And of course, sitting down for lunch and eating the food she just cooked was another highlight. Actually, she does not like doing press. Everyone does call her to do a story, and she turns them down. I think her family convinced her to say yes to Garden and Gun. Which is good for all of us
WHEN YOU GO BACK YOU WILL...
I will leave my cameras at home and bring my empty stomach.