Louisiana native and proud LSU alum Jay D. Ducote has quickly made a name for himself as an expert on the Louisiana food landscape. He is the author of food and beverage site biteandbooze.com, host of the Baton Rouge-based Bite and Booze Radio Show, cohost of the Me and My Big Mouth Radio Show, a contributor to our sister magazine, Louisiana Cookin’, and was a finalist on Next Food Network Star. We sat down with him to chat about his hometown of Baton Rouge, his favorite holiday traditions, and his favorite tailgating recipes.
Can you tell us about some of your favorite places in Baton Rouge to take family and friends who will be visiting during the holidays?
Asking me to choose my favorite restaurants in Baton Rouge is like asking a mother to pick her favorite child: it’s nearly impossible, and rarely fair to anyone. Someone is always going to feel left out. But there are a few places in town I find myself consistently recommending to friends from out of town:
I love to start with Magpie Café. It’s a local coffee shop with a great atmosphere and true café vibe. I always recommend some fresh-baked Magpie “poptarts”. I also absolutely love City Pork. They currently have two locations, with a third opening soon. Each location is a little bit different. The original location is more of a sandwich shop, while the other locations are more full service. If you’re looking for seafood, you can’t go wrong with Tony’s Seafood. It’s Louisiana’s largest seafood market. Tony’s has all kinds of Louisiana seafood classics including boudin balls, crawfish pie, and muffulettas, just to name a few. A new restaurant called Table Kitchen & Bar recently opened, and I’ve really enjoyed eating there. They serve seasonal farm-to-table style food that is absolutely delicious! Finally, if you’re interested in a Brewery, Tin Roof Brewery is definitely worth checking out. It’s fun to hang out in their taproom and try out their many different beers.
What local Louisiana ingredients do you most enjoy cooking with?
I love working with Louisiana cane syrup. Of course Steen’s Cane Syrup is a classic, but I also really love working with Poirier’s. It’s a small-batch cane syrup made in Youngsville, Louisiana. I like to work with Louisiana seafood and game, like duck. Satsumas are also really great, especially this time of year.
What are your favorite holiday traditions?
I grew up in a hunting family, so Thanksgiving was usually spent hunting; we had family time but it was spent in the deer stand rather than around a traditional table. In college, Thanksgiving became more football focused. LSU and Arkansas used to play, and we would go to the game. If the game was in Fayetteville, Arkansas, we’d spend Thanksgiving day road tripping to the game. We even attached a smoker to the back of my truck once and smoked a turkey on the way to the game. My traditions are somewhat unconventional, but they are always focused on family and friends. Christmas Eve was always spent at my Memaw’s house where we would eat seafood from Tony’s. Christmas Day was held at my Granny’s house. She was more of a baker, so there was always lots of traditional sweets, like divinity candy. We also always eat ate her pecan rolls for breakfast.
What is your go-to dish to bring to holiday parties and get-togethers?
I wouldn’t really say that I have a go-to dish—I like to experiment and try new things. I think casseroles are always a great choice though. They are often underrated and can be elevated very easily. You can always put new and modern twists on classic casseroles like green bean casserole or sweet potato casserole.
You’re a very proud LSU alum. What are your favorite tailgate foods?
When I make food for tailgating, I’m looking for foods that can feed lots of people at once. I do a lot of BBQ and grilling, and lots of dishes that I make in cast iron. Duck and Andouille Gumbo, Red Beans and Rice, Alligator and Red Beans are all popular choices.
Can you describe your cast-iron collection?
My most prized cast-iron possession would most definitely be a 12-gallon cauldron that I acquired for tailgating. I use it all the time when cooking for crowds. It’s kind of a monster. It comes with its own propane. It means business. I have a number of Dutch ovens, and I’ve got another six-gallon pot that I use quite often. Most of my pieces of cast iron came from grandparents or my father. Some I purchased in stores— some I bought new while others were used. I really love cast iron because it’s so durable and always comes with a great story.
You’ve travelled a lot and experienced a bunch of different cultures. What do you think makes the culture in Louisiana so compelling?
I think the culture in Louisiana is unique because of how synonymous culture is with food. Culture in other places is more focused on things like art, music, etc. Culture in Louisiana revolves around what and where we are eating and who we are eating with. The sense of community in Louisiana really starts with food.