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Cajun Cooking with the Locals in NOLA

Hey, I’m Alyssa! I’m a travel advisor raised in Tupelo and now living in New Orleans. I met Lauren through Cooking as a First Language, and we’ve since reconnected over our shared love for all things travel and food. I’m excited to guest-blog about my own family’s quest to explore a new culture through a food experience.

In some places, the most incredible cooking going on isn’t at a trendy new food truck or a Michelin-star restaurant — it’s in the homes and kitchens of local folks who grew up eating those dishes. Cooking alongside their parents and grandparents has given them an innate sense of how the food should be.

A few weeks ago, my travel agency partnered with The Traveling Spoon, an organization seeking to bring these local, intimate experiences to culture-curious travelers. This kind of small-group, hands-on thing is right up my alley, so when I found Courtland’s class through Traveling Spoon, I booked it right away. 

We’d just moved to New Orleans, and with my in-laws coming to visit for the first time – it turned out to be the perfect activity.

Courtland and his wonderful wife Allie come from Lafayette, a hidden food gem in its own right located just a few hours West of NOLA. Courtland learned to cook from his grandmother and his dad, who spent most of his career in the restaurant industry. They both welcomed us into their home tucked away from the noise of the city.

On the menu:

  • Backyard summer salad

  • Shrimp boulettes with a remoulade dipping sauce

  • Crawfish bisque with stuffed crawfish heads over rice

  • French bread custard with ice cream

It is crazy how fast we all felt at home. Courtland and Allie treated us like friends over for dinner, not like cooking class “students.” We had a glass (or two) of wine before rolling up our sleeves. 

We started by prepping the stuffed crawfish heads. Courtland finely diced the crawfish meat and the Cajun “Holy Trinity” of celery, green peppers, and white onions, and then combined it all into a mixture with almost a stuffing-type texture. Courtland showed us how to stuff the pre-cleaned crawfish heads with our mixture. As we finished stuffing the heads, we all arranged them in a cast iron skillet for baking. 

While we waited for the stuffed crawfish heads to finish in the oven, Courtland and Allie showed us their garden out back. We traded stories about life and travel as Courtland cooked the savory shrimp boulettes and prepped the simple but amazing salad with vegetables they’d grown. The shrimp boulettes, a mixture of finely chopped Louisiana shrimp and again the “Holy Trinity” then deep fried, reminded me of the texture of egg foo young - bouncy and delicious. 

Then time for the main course of crawfish bisque. Cortland dished out the bisque served rice and then topped the dish off with the baked, stuffed crawfish heads. It was worth a “Hallelujah!” Each piece of our meal was fresh, flavorful, and phenomenal. Last (but not least) came the drool-worthy bread pudding and ice cream. You could have rolled us out of there, we ate so much. 

Going out to eat in New Orleans is one thing, but helping out in the kitchen of a born Cajun chef is a whole different experience. In the few months we’ve been in New Orleans, this may have been my favorite night so far and definitely my favorite meal. I can’t say enough about this experience or about our excellent hosts! 

Takeaways and Details

  • Courtland offers a few suggestions for dinner options, and he’s great about accounting for allergies and other exceptions.

  • He takes groups between 2-8 people and offers a 10-1 weekend lunch slot in addition to the 5-8 dinner slot.

  • This experience is such a great change of pace from the usual restaurant experience. If you want something fun and interactive that also feels like a break, this class is for you! 

  • If you have a group with different travel styles, this is one activity everyone can enjoy. We all loved it — my husband and I, my in-laws, and even my picky teenager. 

If this sounds like your type of fun, I’d love to book this class for you. Just drop me a line here. Of course, I’d be glad to help you game-plan your next trip to NOLA — or wherever your next adventure takes you. If you’re curious about working with a travel agent, learn more about how it works here

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