lounging on the sofa and flipping through the most recent issue of The Scott Connection—maybe I’ll stop here for a moment.
Wherever we go, I try to find and read the free local newspapers. Many of these are alternative-indie papers, which, in addition to having editorial positions that are decidedly more progressive than that of the areas served, contain comprehensive lists of upcoming events and local restaurants. And some—like The Scott Connection—serve a small community and contain local news (weddings, births, deaths, graduations, honor roll lists, etc.) and local business information.
On this occasion, I noticed this add. Now three things got my attention. First, Mire is just a short five miles up the road from our campground. Second, we always are intrigued by a place calling itself a diner. And third, there was the name Chef Roy Lyons, CEC. Now the former owner of Chef Roy’s Frog City Café was a Chef Roy Lyons. Could this be the same Chef Roy? There is only one way to find out. Road trip.
Following the directions in the ad was not difficult. This small town (so small that you can’t “Google” the population) has only one real intersection. So we made a left at the four–way stop and drove maybe a quarter of a mile down Grand Prairie Highway. Soon, across from a field of cows, we spied the diner’s sign.
Now some may be put off by the abandoned and dilapidated gas pumps and the somewhat spartan look of the building. But we have learned that behind some of the humblest doors lies the best food.
Equally spartan is the diner’s interior. This place can’t seat more than twenty-five. The tables are covered with flannel-backed plastic cloths and the stack-type chairs were in multiple colors. When we arrived perhaps four other tables were occupied, but soon after 1:00 p.m. we had the place to ourselves.
Our first question to the young server was “Is this the same Chef Roy?” Indeed it was.
“Chef Roy Lyons was born in Rayne in 1950…graduated from Rayne High School…attended USL and Nichols State University…In 1995, he completed the National Certification Test and received the American Chefs’ Federation Certified Executive Chef Diploma, based on his education, experience and achievements. Today he is one of the official spokespersons for the Louisiana Dept. of Agriculture and the Canadian National Television. His success has made him a world traveler, guided by his love of cooking and his expertise in promoting our Cajun Cuisine…. He has traveled the United States extensively, promoting the French Language and Cajun Cuisine from Miami to Las Vegas to Chicago…His international travels have taken Chef Roy to prepare Cajun meals in the following countries: Canada; Quebec, Belgium, France, Mexico, Costa Rico, Turkey, Holland, England, Nicaragua, Spain, and the Netherlands. He has been named as one of the ‘Top Chefs in France’…” (acadianmuseum.com/legends)
Displayed prominently on one wall is a plaque testifying to Chef Roy’s induction into the Chaîne des Rôtisseurs which “is the world’s oldest international gastronomic society, founded in Paris in 1248. It is devoted to preserving the camaraderie and pleasures of the table and to promoting excellence in all areas of the hospitality arts. Each year the society sponsors young chef and sommelier competitions that attract contestants from throughout the world, while the Chaîne Foundation provides scholarships for students in these fields. Chaîne is based on the traditions and practices of the old French royal guild of meat roasters. Revived in 1950, the society has professional and amateur members in more than 70 countries worldwide. In the United States, there are nearly 130 bailliages (chapters), each offering a variety of culinary activities to suit the interests of local members” (chaineus.org).
So what is Chef Roy doing running a small diner in the middle of nowhere? The answer involves helping a family member. But, based on our extended conversation with him, I also suspect that he missed being the master of his own domain or—in this case—kitchen.
Tomorrow: the results of the work in the kitchen.