From bayous to the soul, right into a piping-hot bowl, you’ll get a traditional taste of Louisiana Cajun/Creole staples, including jambalaya, gumbo, crawfish, muffulettas, étouffée, po’boys, red beans, rice, and bread pudding in Lake Charles. What makes the difference from good to great? One theory might be a secret that local food artists all share – and that’s passion. The diversity of characters, backgrounds, and cultures, all mixing together and inspiring new traditions ... that’s the culture of foodie fusion in Lake Charles! Let’s meet the people behind the plate with inspiring food that represents the lively spirit of artist creation found in Louisiana’s Playground!
INSPIRING CHEF: MAMA RETA
Mama Reta Durgan creates go-to comfort food in Southwest Louisiana. Everyone calls her “Mama Reta,” and she cooks out of her childhood home, converted into a restaurant. She serves up a heaping helping of Southern hospitality to anyone who comes through Mama Reta's Kitchen drive-thru lane or walk-up window. Mama Reta loves to see the steam rising off the fresh plate of food, the taste of her smothered okra, the sound of fried chicken sinking into popping hot grease, and the warmth of the plate right before she serves it.
INSPIRING CHEF: AMANDA CUSEY
Chef Amanda Cusey, of The Terrance restaurant, located within Lake Area Adventures, is the 2022 Queen of Louisiana Seafood. Chef Amanda says that she loves the smell of fresh basil, the taste of roasted garlic, the feel of slicing tomatoes, the sound of fish searing in a pan, and the sight of a happy kitchen. She received her Cordon Bleu training at the Tante Marie Culinary Academy in Surrey, England, and worked as the head chef at Eataly in Dublin, Ireland. How’s that for a blended culture? Her dishes are multifaceted, with rich creams and sophisticated palates of flavors that are sure to bring a smile to your lips. Oh, and she really does have a crown. That’s next level!
INSPIRING CHEF: GUS GARDEN
Area 337 is another gem with a passionate food artist, Gus Garden. His specialty is Latin American cuisine with influences from the Dominican Republic. Gus says that his goal is to transport people to an authentic Latin experience. You’ll see vibrant colors, hear Latin music, and get a taste of Caribbean blends from Dominican, Puerto Rican, Columbian, Venezuelan, and Cuban cultures. He loves the smell of seafood soup, the sweetness of plantains, the sound of hand-squeezed juices, the feel of flan custards, and the sight of the golden-brown plantains.
INSPIRING CHEF: MICHAEL GARDNER
For a fresh food experience, look no further than Michael Gardner’s Pasta Lab, a micro food factory in Lake Charles. He thinks that Southwest Louisiana’s food is the best-kept secret, and it’s his duty to learn it and honor it. He says that his contribution to the food scene is the crawfish étouffée and Tasso ravioli that comes out of his lab. His food factory is kinetic. From the people and products to the heavy machinery and interactive experiences, there is always something moving. But most of all, his Pasta Lab is fun!
INSPIRING CHEF: LYLE BROUSSARD, JR.
Next up, Chef Lyle Broussard, Jr., is a legend when it comes to barbecue, big meats, and full-bodied flavors that will never let anyone walk away hungry. He thinks that the essence of what makes the food culture in Southwest Louisiana so different is the location, with Lake Charles being surrounded by water for fresh seafood, and then, the proximity to Texas which makes Lake Charles a haven for smoked meats. He inherited his love of cooking from his family and pursued it further by earning his culinary certification at the Culinary Institute of America in New York. Come on by Barstools at L’Auberge Casino Resort for a tantalizing display of Chef Lyle’s creations.