Bio | Interview | Featured Recipes
Chef John Folse, born in St. James Parish in 1946, learned early that the secrets of Cajun cooking layering in the unique ingredients of Louisiana’s swamp floor pantry. Folse seasoned these raw ingredients with his passion for Louisiana culture and cuisine, and from his cast iron pots emerged Chef John Folse & Company.
When Folse opened Lafitte's Landing Restaurant in 1978 in Donaldsonville, he set out to market his restaurant by taking "a taste of Louisiana" worldwide. He introduced Louisiana's indigenous cuisine to Japan in 1985, Beijing in 1986 and Hong Kong and Paris in 1987. In 1988, Folse made international headlines with the opening of "Lafitte's Landing East" in Moscow during the Presidential Summit between Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev. In 1989, Folse was the first non-Italian chef to create the Vatican State Dinner in Rome. Promotional restaurants also included London in 1991 and 1993, Bogota in 1991, Taipei in 1992 and 1994 and Seoul in 1994. In 1988, the Sales and Marketing Executives of Greater Baton Rouge named Folse "Marketer of the Year" and the Louisiana Legislature gave him the title of "Louisiana’s Culinary Ambassador to the World."
The international success of Folse's cornerstone property, Lafitte's Landing Restaurant, spawned the incorporation of several other Chef John Folse & Company properties. White Oak Plantation in 1986 established Folse's catering and events management division. Chef John Folse & Company Publishing, since 1989, has produced ten cookbooks in his Cajun and Creole series, plus a novel, two children's books and a religious memoir by other authors. His recently released Can You Dig It vegetable cookbook won the Benny award for Best Cookbook, the highest honor in the 2015 Premier Print Awards. "A Taste of Louisiana" is Folse’s international television series produced by Louisiana Public Broadcasting since 1990.
The Chef John Folse Culinary Institute at Nicholls State University (NSU) in Thibodaux, La., opened in October 1994 and is devoted to the preservation of Louisiana’s rich culinary and cultural heritage. In August 2015, the new culinary arts building was dedicated.
In August 1996, Folse began broadcasting his radio cooking talk show, "Stirrin' It Up." In 2001, "Stirrin' It Up" expanded to a television cooking segment during the 5 p.m. newscast on WAFB-TV Channel 9 in Baton Rouge, La. In 2016, WVUE-TV FOX 8 in New Orleans started airing "Stirrin' It Up" cooking segments during the morning show.
In August 2010, Folse announced his partnership with Chef Rick Tramonto and the formation of Home on the Range: Folse Tramonto Restaurant Development, LLC. Their first joint venture, Restaurant R’evolution, opened in June 2012 at 777 Bienville St. at the Royal Sonesta Hotel in New Orleans. In November 2014 Folse and Tramonto opened their second joint venture, Seafood R’evolution, in Ridgeland, MS, a bedroom community of the metro Jackson area. Seafood R’evolution’s menu pays homage to Mississippi’s heritage, focusing on the freshness and flavors of the Gulf Coast region. In just one short year, Seafood R’evolution has already made quite a splash!
In August 2012, Folse was honored to represent Louisiana and the Gulf Coast with BP’s Spirit of the Gulf campaign at the London Olympics. He led a group of eight Gulf region chefs who prepared and served seafood dishes to guests at USA House in an effort to promote Gulf Seafood worldwide. In spring 2013 Folse received the Lifetime Achievement Award from Research Chefs Association. In March 2014, Folse received St. Joseph Cathedral Community Award given by Bishop Robert Muench, Bishop of the Diocese of Baton Rouge. In August 2015, LRA honored him with the Hall of Fame award. Currently, he serves on the Sister Dulce Foundation Board of Trustees.
Almost forty years of culinary excellence later, Folse is still adding ingredients to the corporate gumbo he calls Chef John Folse & Company, which is as diverse as the Louisiana landscape, and he would not want it any other way.
Q: How did you get started with your career? Please describe your journey of how you got to where you are today.
A: In the early 1970s while searching desperately for a position in accounting, I happened upon a wonderful female general manager at Howard Johnson's restaurant/hotel in Baton Rouge. After numerous visits, she convinced me that I might enjoy a career in food and beverage. She hired me as a manager trainee and it was the beginning of a great career in food and beverage.
Q: What do you love most about your job?
A: I always enjoy a new challenge, whether it is creating new menu items for a casual concept restaurant, orchestrating a private "home" event for 1,500 on New Year's Eve or bringing Louisiana's rich culture and cuisine worldwide.
Q: Describe your cooking style.
A: Modern, imaginative reinterpretations of classic Cajun and Creole cuisine.
Q: What is your favorite Chefwear item and why?
A: I love the Chefwear brand and quality. That's why I brought Chefwear into my culinary institute at Nicholls State University in Thibodaux, LA.
Q: If you could choose any chef (dead or alive) to spend the day with, who would it be? Why?
A: I would choose to spend the day with Eugénie Brazier, the most famous French chef of Lyon and teacher of Chef Paul Bocuse and so many other prominent chefs of France.
Q: What is your favorite kitchen gadget?
A: A sausage stuffer.
Q: What is the funniest kitchen incident you’ve encountered?
A: The funniest and most embarrassing incident, all rolled into one, is when the sewer had issues on a busy Saturday night at Lafitte's Landing. So, I did what any chef in that situation would do: I went outside to fix the problem. What I didn't expect was to look up from the sewer flow to see the editor of Southern Living admiring my handiwork.
Q: What do you do to stay educated about new trends in the restaurant industry?
A: I attend conferences, host conferences and subscribe to a plethora of food-related magazines.
Q: What is your favorite meal?
A: Smothered seven-steaks, rice and gravy, eggplant casserole and red velvet cake for dessert.
Q: Please list awards and accolades.
A: In spring 2013 Folse received the Lifetime Achievement Award from Research Chefs Association. In March 2014, Folse received St. Joseph Cathedral Community Award given by Bishop Robert Muench, Bishop of the Diocese of Baton Rouge. In August 2015, LRA honored him with the Hall of Fame award. His recently released Can You Dig It vegetable cookbook won the Benny award for Best Cookbook, the highest honor in the 2015 Premier Print Awards. Currently, he serves on the Sister Dulce Foundation Board of Trustees.
Q: Which accomplishment are you most proud of in your career?
A: I am most proud that the Chef John Folse Culinary Institute was named in my honor at Nicholls State University in Thibodaux, LA. CJFCI opened in October 1994 and is devoted to the preservation of Louisiana’s rich culinary and cultural heritage. In August 2015, the new culinary arts building was dedicated.
Q: What was the best advice you ever received in your career?
A: My best advice was when I graduated from high school. My father opened the front door and said, "The world is full of great opportunities. Go make it happen!"
Q: What advice would you give to a home enthusiast?
A: I would give the home enthusiast the same advice I give my culinary students: read the recipe thoroughly before you do anything else! Keep food simple, regional and seasonal!
Death by Gumbo