From my profile of Cody Carroll, a fast-rising star on the Louisiana restaurant scene. Only three years since culinary school graduation, Carroll, 29, has established himself as one of the state’s hottest chefs. His restaurant Hot Tails, just across the river from me, in the town of New Roads, is one of the best places to eat authentic Louisiana food. Excerpts:

Immediately after winning the cook-off, Carroll, who lives in Baton Rouge, told others that he was likely headed for New Orleans. He figured that there was no way a chef who aspires to make a national reputation can do it from Baton Rouge, whose restaurant scene is dominated by chain restaurants and a conservative, crab-meat-and-cream-sauce old guard.

As it turns out, Carroll decided to turn his back on New Orleans and is now looking for a Baton Rouge location for his flagship restaurant, which he hopes to open in the next 18 months. His change of heart says something about the promise a new generation of chefs is bringing to the Capital Region. More than that, though, it says something about the kind of chef Cody Carroll is: passionately, even evangelically, devoted to his roots among the people and the culinary heritage of the Baton Rouge area.

“I realized that this is where my heart is. It’s going to make me happier to make my people satisfied than to please these tourists in New Orleans,” Carroll says. “Don’t get me wrong; every chef likes all kinds of people enjoying his restaurant. But I’d rather make my community happy than anything else.”

This is not just localist piety. He really means it. Carroll grew up on a farm in a rural Cajun part of the state, and started cooking at the age of 10, preparing meals for the farmhands and later, cooking for the men at his dad’s Atchafalaya swamp hunting camp. Read the whole thing for that inspiring story. I eat there a lot, and the food is fantastic. Whenever we have out of town guests, we take them to Hot Tails. I’m telling you, this guy is going to be a Food Network star one day. Check this out; it’s a promotional video the Louisiana Culinary Institute made to celebrate the opening of Hot Tails. Samantha Neal, the woman in the video, is a chef who is Cody’s business partner, and his wife:

UPDATE: Chef is now on Twitter. Follow him @ChefCodyCarroll

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