Donnie Bulliard spent his childhood de-boning chicken, pickin' figs, and swimmin' in pickle vats in St. Martinville, La. His family's got a crawfish peeling plant and a kitchen that looks like a grocery store, and they've been bottling hot sauce for over 100 years.
Now, Bulliard is bringing his seasoned expertise to Charleston in the form of Cajun Kitchen. Located within Charleston Signature Kitchens in West Ashley, The Cajun Kitchen is due to open on Aug. 5.
Bulliard may have left the Bayou, but the Cajun way of life will never leave him. During our interview at The Glass Onion, he sat drawing diagrams of Louisiana burial traditions on the paper-covered tabletop, next to a plate of fried chicken livers.
At the Kitchen, Bulliard and his sous chef Marcelle Bienvenu will host nightly dinners where they cook up course after course of French-Louisiana delicacies like meat pie, au gratin, and etouffée. All of the appliances will be moved out of the Signature Kitchen showroom to make room for up to 60 people. Each dinner costs $60.
"The dinners are mainly for entertainment," says Bulliard. "It's gonna be a three hour affair with boozin' and non-stop eatin'."
As Bulliard demonstrates how to make his authentic family recipes, he will regale his audience with story after story about life on the Bayou — a place filled with loud people and even louder food.
"I'm talkin' about Cajun Cajuns," he says. "Guys whose chins touch their noses, brothers who would stab you with a fork and sleep in the same bed with you that night, people who start talking about what's being fried for breakfast while you're still eatin' dinner."
While the concept of a Cajun kitchen may be new to Charleston, Bulliard says that an idea like his would never work in St. Martinville. There'd be at least 12 other restaurants serving food just as good.
Bulliard has hired camera crews to tape the Cajun Kitchen for a cooking series that he is pitching to different networks. He already has hours of footage. If no one picks it up, he still plans to air it locally. Until then, you can watch Bulliard and find recipes on his website at www.thecajunkitchen.tv.
Bulliard says he's invested everything he has into this business and is banking on one day being the face of the Cajun nation. We haven't tried his food yet, but he's a made-for-TV personality. And that we guarantee.