Tuesday, December 15, 2020

A Talk with George Graham of Acadianatable.com about his new cookbook "Fresh From Louisiana: The Soul of Cajun and Creole Home Cooking" - Interview

George Graham in his Kitchen. Courtesy George Graham

"...I poured a glass of bourbon and thought about George Graham..." (Virginia Billeaud Anderson interviews George Graham about Acadianatable.com and his new cookbook Fresh from Louisiana: The Soul of Cajun and Creole Home Cooking. And learned about Graham's food marketing background which evolved into a wide array of marketing services such as content creation, food styling and photography and video production and ad placement.)

A Talk with George Graham of Acadianatable.com about his new cookbook “Fresh From Louisiana: The Soul of Cajun and Creole Home Cooking” - Interview

Recently, on a rainy yucky day in Houston, I asked Donnie to cook “Blackened Voodoo Beef Stew” from George Graham’s food blog acadianatable.com. I’ve been partial to that decadent stew thickened with a bottle of dark lager ever since Graham distributed the recipe to his blog readers in 2016. According to Graham’s back-story, after eating beef stew made with Guinness in an Irish pub, he concocted a south-Louisiana version which substituted Dixie Blackened Voodoo Beer for Guinness, and included local south Louisiana standards such as green onion, bell pepper and cayenne among the recipe’s 22 ingredients. Graham’s stew brings fun memories of centuries-old pubs in Ireland where we hung out with locals near peat-burning fireplaces and downed Guinness and glasses of whiskey. On an absurdly narrow road, Donnie knocked the mirror off the rent car.

So while Donnie chopped the celery and onions and peeled the carrots and potatoes and “browned” the cubes of sirloin, I poured a glass of bourbon and thought about George Graham. Graham started his blog acadianatable.com because he wanted to write about Cajun and Creole cuisine and culture. He calls Louisiana’s Acadiana region a “fascinating culinary world” and likens its food product-manufacturing to that of southern France, in other words, it is characterized by passion, and commands the world’s attention. Blog stories, recipes and food images attracted followers, and won awards. Graham published his first book, Acadiana Table: Cajun and Creole Home Cooking from the Heart of Louisiana, and recently in November 2020, published his second book Fresh from Louisiana: The Soul of Cajun and Creole Home Cooking.

Cajun Seafood Gumbo. Image by George Graham.

Hell bent on informing my own blog readers about Graham and his work and his new book, I contacted him and asked a few questions. I have to fess up though to dropping my south Loos-iana brothers’ names, because David and Billy Billeaud have a bit of notoriety from their restaurants and food businesses:

Virginia Billeaud Anderson: Hi George, I have a few questions about you and your work. We never met, but you’re acquainted with my brothers David and Billy. You spotlighted them on acadianatable.com.

George Graham: Hey Virginia, Yes! I would be happy to be part of your story. I know your brothers, and in fact, Billy appears in my new cookbook.

VBA: Sweet.

GG: Billy appears in a sidebar feature called “Make Friends With A Butcher” where I profiled Billy and his meat market at Billeaud’s Meat and Grocery in Broussard.

George Graham’s new cookbook Fresh From Louisiana: The Soul

                  of Cajun and Creole Home Cooking

George Graham with his new cookbook

VBA: The growth of the website and your new book, Fresh from Louisiana: The Soul of Cajun and Creole Home Cooking with 104 recipes and over 100 color photographs, cement you as an excavator of south Louisiana’s culinary heritage. When did you begin composing this second book, how long did it take?

GG: The day after I completed the first book in 2016, it took 4 years.

VBA: What was your profession before you began acadianatable.com? 

GG: I have been in an advertising agency for the past 40 years.

VBA: You are originally from Bogalusa, north of New Orleans. What brought you to Lafayette?

GG: I moved to Lafayette after college and got my start in the food marketing business with a national restaurant company called Chart House Inc., where I was Marketing Director.

VBA: I remember Chart House. Essentially, you began your marketing career in the restaurant industry, which congealed the future food guru. As a kid, you worked in your family’s café. Any other ties to food?

GG: I owned a restaurant in Lafayette (Hub City Diner), and my work in my ad agency business has been for dozens of clients in the food manufacturing or restaurant industry.

VBA: Whoa, maybe we crossed paths in the ole days. If you owned Hub City Diner you partnered with Charlie Goodson who was my boss at his infamous Judge Roy Bean’s Saloon where I hired-on the day I turned 18 in 1974 and where I worked until I finished college. I’ll bet my beer money I served you Glenlivet with a twist when I worked for Charlie at Judge’s. Did you start acadiana.com to help sell your first book, or did the first book evolve out of acadianatable.com?

GG: First come the words: I love to write and the colorful food culture of Acadiana was my entrée into storytelling. Cooking has always been a passion, and learning digital photography appealed to my creative instincts. At the same time, I taught myself how to build a blog via Wordpress. It all came together over time.

Whole Stuffed Flounder. Photo by George Graham
from acadianatable.com facebook
Blackened Voodoo Beef Stew. Photo by George Graham
 from acadianatable.com

VBA: You’re kicking ass with the photography. Food photography in my opinion is a devilish art form, and yours is downright seductive. No wonder Country Roads Magazine put your image on their cover, writing you taught yourself “how to plate, style, prop, and photograph the foods you prepared.” Photography, you told them, brought your blog to life, conveying the richness of the subject matter. George I’m equally floored by the manner in which you corralled content about food, recipes and culture into endorsements and product placement. With site and social media page views ratcheted up to nearly 1 million a year, “influencer” territory in the online world, you offer promotional and marketing services such as sponsored posts, writing, video production, food styling and photography, social media and ad placement. Say a few words about letting rip into on-line marketing services.

GG: With the national recognition garnered by Acadiana Table, subscribers and page views skyrocketed. The publishing world took notice and I signed a cookbook deal. From there, food-related advertisers came calling to link their products with my audience. At the heart of it all, Acadiana Table remains a “passion project” for me, and its core mission of “Preserving and promoting the Cajun and Creole food culture of Louisiana” is still my focus.

VBA: Did you give up your day job?

GG: Nope. I still run Graham Group advertising agency.

VBA: Anything else you want readers to know about you, or acadianatable.com or your books?

GG: I always make a point of letting people know that I am a storyteller. My blog and books are more about the amazing people and their passion for cooking than it is about recipes. If you read my cookbooks and blog, you should clearly understand the difference between writing recipes and writing stories.

VBA: What’s your plan for the future, what’s next?

GG: Videos have become the next creative expression of Acadiana Table, and my wife Roxanne and daughter Lo have joined me in front of the camera. Please check out our current series called Boat-To-Table for Louisiana Direct Seafood on the blog and on YouTube.

My brother Billy Billeaud in his Meat Market at
Billeaud's Meat and Grocery. Appears
in George Graham's new cookbook.

George, Roxanne and Lo Graham - video image

Image of Lemon Pecan Pancakes by George Graham
featured in Country Roads magazine.

George Graham’s first cookbook Acadiana Table:
Cajun and Creole Home Cooking from
the Heart of Louisiana.

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  1. Great article. It is always a pleasure to read about someone who is passionate about cooking and their Louisiana roots. I didn't know you used to work at Judge Roy Beans!

  2. Sending greetings Kay. Thanks for reading my "stuff." Those years at Judge's were insane.