Cajun cuisine is the last bastion of true American regional cooking, and no one knows it better than award-winning chef and Top Chef fan favorite Isaac Toups. Born and bred in the heart of Cajun country, Toups now represents the new guard of Cajun cooking, combining the fine dining culture of New Orleans—where his two restaurants are based—with the rustic, rich flavors and unapologetic resourcefulness of Cajun culture.
Written alongside acclaimed journalist Jennifer V. Cole, and with a foreword from Emeril Lagasse, CHASING THE GATOR: Isaac Toups and the New Cajun Cooking (Little, Brown; October 23, 2018; Hardcover) pays homage to the time-honored traditions of a distinctly Cajun upbringing, offering recipes, notes, and stories from the backcountry to the bayou.
The proud scion of both Prairie and Coastal Cajuns lineage, Toups grew up deep in the Atchafalaya Basin of Louisiana, where his ancestors settled over 300 years ago. In CHASING THE GATOR, he reflects on his rollicking upbringing, giving readers a taste of the region’s bawdy humor and a look at the deep communal ties that influenced his cooking along the way.
With stunning photography and 100 full-flavor recipes—including the Toups treatment on making a classic roux, putting together a real crawfish boil, and cooking a perfect pot of dirty rice—the book is divided into sections that encompass the full Cajun experience:
- The Boucherie: A celebration of the pig that takes an animal from “live to eating” in the span of a single day
- The Community Table: Toups’ take on a true Cajun cookout, with stories from neighborhood gatherings of his youth
- The Homestead: Reflections on the foods, often homegrown, that Isaac grew up eating at his family table
- The Fish Camp: Memories of vacations with Coastal Cajun relatives, centered around local seafood fare
- The Hunt Camp: The backwoods perspective on how to prepare duck, rabbit, and Louisiana “ditch chicken” (made from the best frog legs that Rayne, Louisiana, has to offer)
Fusing the attitude of Action Bronson with the verve of Roy Choi, CHASING THE GATOR is a passionate tribute to the full Cajun experience through the lens of a proud Louisiana native—the ultimate homage to a cornerstone of American cultural heritage.
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This book isn’t full of trendy recipes. It’s full of experiences and stories of a lifestyle that isn’t familiar to many. Isaac’s rustic and decadent Cajun-influenced dishes will take you on a journey through places in south Louisiana that most tourists would never get to see or experience…This book is a testament to his culture, his upbringing, and his passion for sharing these traditions with the world. His kicked-up version of recipes saluting Cajun cuisine is noteworthy not only in New Orleans but in America.”
—From the foreward by Emeril Lagasse, chef and bestselling author
“Chasing the Gator should come with a warning: do not read hungry. Isaac Toups’ colorful tribute to the traditions of Cajun cooking is dangerously appetite-inducing and equally enlightening. You may have to ice your arm after all the roux-stirring, but you’ll walk away with a profound appreciation for the Cajun way of life—a delicious and authentic piece of American culture.”
—Danny Meyer, CEO of Union Square Hospitality Group, founder of Shake Shack,
and author of Setting the Table
ABOUT THE AUTHORS:
Isaac Toups has four times been named a James Beard Best Chef of the South Semi-Finalist or Finalist since opening Toups’ Meatery in 2012 with his wife, Amanda. He was named an Eater Young Gun of the South, Eater New OrleansChef of the Year, and a Top Chef fan favorite. Before opening Toups’ Meatery, he honed his skill for a decade as a fine-dining chef at restaurants such as Emeril’s Delmonico. His cooking has been featured by the Wall Street Journal, Food & Wine, CNN, and Tasting Table, among many other outlets. He is a passionate advocate for the protection of America’s wetlands.
Jennifer V. Cole spent nearly a decade getting to know the intricacies of the South at Southern Living magazine, where she served as Deputy Editor and where her annual Top 100 Southern Restaurants and Best New Restaurants lists were considered the final word on where to eat in the South. Her writing appears widely in other publications. A native of Mississippi, she spent eight years in New York City, where she annually had live crawfish flown up for her birthday boil—she purged them in her bathtub, to the chagrin of her roommates.