Posted: Oct 11, 2010 12:07 PM
Chef Paul Prudhomme has cooked for two Presidents, heads of states and American troops across the globe. But he has never reigned as a king - until now.
The Louisiana Yambilee, a grand sweet potato festival in Chef Paul's hometown of Opelousas, La, has named Prudhomme king of its 65th annual celebration. Set for Oct, 27-31, 2010, the Yambilee features a week of pageants, cooking competitions, a carnival with zydeco, Cajun music, arts and crafts, and the Grand Louisiyam Parade.
As king, Chef Paul will reign over the parade with this year's parade marshal, Celeste Gomez, director of the St. Landry Parish Tourist Commission. Prudhomme and Gomez will be part of the Harvest Mass Oct. 24 at Holy Ghost Catholic Church.
The official coronation is set for Oct. 30. The Yambilee parade, complete with marching bands, floats and dignitaries, rolls through Opelousas Oct. 31.
Robbie Sebastien, vice president of the Louisiana Yambilee Association, is excited about Chef Paul's homecoming.
"I'm glad to see him come back to his hometown roots," said Sebastien.
Prudhomme says yams and the Yambilee are close to him in many ways. (Some of his favorite sweet potato recipes accompany this press release.)
"Sweet potatoes have always been an important part of my life," said Prudhomme. "From digging them in the fields as a child growing up in Opelousas to enjoying them in the dishes that my mother prepared. The Yambilee Festival is one of my favorite festivals because it celebrates the people, culture and the flavor of the golden yam."
Each year, a governing board chooses the Yambilee King, based on his achievements and success in the yam industry. Chef Paul has turned the cuisine of his hometown into an international phenomenon.
Born in 1940 in an Opelousas family of 13, children, Prudhomme spent hours in the kitchen by his mother's side. In his 20s, he traveled across the United States, absorbing culinary flavors and cultural customs from coast to coast.
That knowledge and experience resulted in K-Paul's Louisiana Kitchen, a New Orleans restaurant that remains a food destination for pleasure-seeking palates around the world. Prudhomme's seasoning secrets also gave birth to Chef Paul Prudhomme's Magic Seasoning Blends, products that are distributed in all 50 states and 25 countries.
Chef Paul enjoys international celebrity with numerous appearances on major TV networks and prominent national magazines. His culinary awards include 1983's Restaurateur of the Year from the Louisiana State Restaurant Association and Bon Appetit's Humanitarian Award in 2006.
Prudhomme brings those accolades back home to Opelousas, a town of 25,000 filled with his family, classmates and lifelong friends. Louisiana's third-oldest city, Opelousas also reigns as the Zydeco Music Capitol of the World and the birthplace of Olympic gold medalist Rod Milburn and Devery Henderson, star receiver with the Super Bowl XLIV champion New Orleans Saints.
The city's Yambilee festival started in 1946 as an event to honor the state and local sweet potato industry. The yam's history in the area dates back to 1760, when French explorers discovered Native Americans eating sweet potatoes.
The yam became a favorite of early settlers who established a trading post 1765 in Opelousas. They worked to make sweet potatoes a prime crop, which is harvested in late summer and fall.
Through the years, generations of local families have made their livings as yam growers, processors and shippers.