From WWL TV New Orleans, Louisiana
Paul Prudhomme, the internationally-known superstar chef and restaurateur who brought new life to Cajun and Creole cuisine, popularizing it internationally and setting off a cooking craze in the 1980s, while also building a spice and food business empire, has died. He was 75.
Prudhomme's death was confirmed by his restaurant, K-Paul's Louisiana Kitchen. A representative said the chef died after a brief illness.
The restaurant opened in the French Quarter in 1979, taking part of his name and that of his late wife, Kay Hinrichs Prudhomme. But Prudhomme first gained fame in New Orleans as the chef at Commander's Palace, where he, Ella and Dick Brennan revolutionized Creole cuisine. He became executive chef there in 1975, turning the landmark restaurant into a national treasure.
At his own restaurant, K-Paul's, which opened in 1979, Prudhomme and his wife Kay introduced the blackened redfish craze, which made the fish so popular that commercial fishing of the species became restricted in order to prevent it from going extinct. Prudhomme is also credited with introducing the turducken poultry dish, now a mainstay. The line outside his Chartres Street restaurant, which at the time had a no-reservation policy, often stretched down the block. The restaurant now accepts reservations and remains a must-visit for locals and tourists alike.
As a result of endless requests for his seasoning secrets, Prudhomme also in the 1990s created his own line of all natural herbs and spices. Today, his brand of Magic Seasoning Blends and products is distributed in all 50 states and in more than 30 countries around the world, produced at a factory in Elmwood.
Born and raised in Opelousas, the youngest of 13 children, Prudhomme's given name was Paul but as a young man he went by the name Gene Autry Prudhomme, a nod to the famous singing cowboy.
He opened his first restaurant in Opelousas in 1957, a hamburger restaurant called Big Daddy O's Patio. The restaurant went out of business in nine months, which also saw the end of his first marriage. Prudhomme then moved to New Orleans, taking odd jobs in restaurants here and elsewhere.
He moved back to New Orleans for jobs at Le Pavillion Hotel and Maison duPuy. Television personality Terry Flettrich, along with Ella Brennan, are credited with first "discovering" Prudhomme, first as a cooking school teacher with them, and then a superstar chef.
As a national celebrity, Prudhomme has been featured on countless TV series and interviews, as well as national and international magazines. He has been honored with awards from the food industry over the years including Restaurateur of the Year, Culinary Diplomat by the American Culinary Federation, and was named a humanitarian by Bon Appetit in 2006 for his donation of food and services to relief workers after Hurricane Katrina. He cooked for members of Congress, heads of state and international celebrities, as well as donating his time for non-profit causes and fundraisers.
Prudhomme is survived by his wife, Lori.
Funeral arrangements are pending.