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Cooking Up a Storm with Jarred Zeringue

Rebuilding a smokehouse after Hurricane Ida

Cooking Up a Storm with Jarred Zeringue

Jarred Zeringue

Smoked chickens ready to be savored at Wayne Jacob’s.

When Hurricane Ida made landfall in August of 2021, nobody could anticipate the scale of the damage it would leave in its wake. The National Centers for Environmental Information estimate that the storm caused $75 billion in damages all told—putting it in the top five costliest hurricanes to come out of the Atlantic. While communities across the Gulf Coast were affected, Louisiana’s bayou and river parishes were struck particularly hard—in St. John the Baptist Parish alone at least 75 percent of buildings had some amount of damage from the storm.

At local favorite Wayne Jacob’s Smokehouse in LaPlace, the damage was extensive. The storm not only tore the roof off the seventy-year-old building but blew the windows out too, allowing rainwater to flood the restaurant. For Chef Jarred Zeringue, who purchased the restaurant in 2015 (along with business partner and longtime friend Matt Moreland), the recovery process has been daunting, but not without opportunities.

“We gutted everything in the restaurant down to the studs,” Zeringue explained. “The place needed a new floor, and obviously, it needed a new roof. But it also needed things that couldn’t have been done without the destruction the storm brought.” Longtime Wayne Jacob’s patrons shouldn’t expect things to look too different—the improvements have been largely behind the scenes. Just as they did when taking control of the business, Zeringue and his team approached the repairs with careful consideration to keep the original spirit of the smokehouse alive. As part of the rebuilding process, the things that gave Wayne Jacob’s its distinctive character were carefully removed, cleaned up, and returned to their rightful spot.

While there’s never a particularly good time for a hurricane to hit, fall is the smokehouse’s busy season—as football games return, tailgaters look to Wayne Jacob’s for andouille and smoked sausage for their jambalaya, not to mention fried and smoked turkeys for Thanksgiving or Christmas. Even worse timing? On the night of the hurricane, they had an on-air TV spot run. “We had orders coming in literally as the hurricane was tearing the roof off the building,” Zeringue recalled. “By the time I was able to shut down the site, we had over three hundred orders. I just had to e-mail them one by one and tell them ‘Hey, it may be a while,’ and nine out of ten people were just like: take your time. It was really amazing.”

By Christmas, the smokehouse was caught up on orders, freeing Zeringue to redouble his efforts to get the restaurant ready for diners once again, as well as finalize work on his first cookbook, Southern and Smoked: Cajun Cooking through the Seasons, released in May of this year by Pelican Publishing. The cookbook was born out of a desire to reconnect people to cooking and eating with the rhythms of the land and includes a mixture of recipes Zeringue developed over his years working in restaurant kitchens, along with those he learned cooking with his family.

“We had orders coming in literally as the hurricane was tearing the roof off the building.”

“Being in the restaurant business for fifteen years, especially in the French Quarter, you get so many customers wanting crawfish in the middle of fall, and it just doesn’t work that way,” Zeringue said. “[With this cookbook] I just did a full menu of what we eat and when—everything from appetizers to main dishes and desserts—with what’s available throughout the year.”

So, what does cooking like a Cajun year-round look like? Well, instead of a ham or a roast this year for Easter, why not make a Cajun crawfish bisque—complete with stuffed crawfish heads? If you have room for dessert, you can try your hand at Zeringue’s grandmother’s recipe for Tarte à la Bouillie—a traditional Cajun custard pie with a rich texture and eye-catching latticework crust. And while you may have your own mawmaw’s recipe ready for the start of gumbo season (or, as it’s known outside of Louisiana, “fall”), Southern and Smoked has a recipe for Wayne Jacob’s Red Bean Gumbo that’s the perfect antidote to a chilly day.

Naturally, many of these dishes are available at Wayne Jacob’s—though some, like the crawfish bisque, only seasonally. If you can’t make it out to the smokehouse but still have tasso and andouille on the mind, don’t worry—they ship their smoked meats nationwide. And if you want a taste of Cajun country without the work, dry spice blends for popular dishes like jambalaya and red beans are also available. Don’t feel too bad about not making everything from scratch—Zeringue’s own mother has been buying Wayne Jacob’s gumbo mix for years, long before Jarred purchased the smokehouse. It’s hard to think of a more glowing recommendation than that.

Gregory Theriot certainly didn’t eat an entire pound of andouille all by himself.