Southern Louisiana cuisine is delicious, not-so-nutritious and notoriously difficult to attain a perfect level of richness and spice. Endless lists of ingredients and hours slaving away at a hot stove can deter even the most determined cook. Cajun grandmothers and classically trained chefs seem to make up the exclusive club that knows how to make beloved dishes like gumbo, jambalaya and much more. Ryan Grizzaffi is changing that.
As the owner of The Cajun Spoon, Grizzaffi is simplifying Louisiana recipes for consumers while maintaining the integrity of the dish. His dry dinner mixes include chicken and dumplings, shrimp and corn bisque, jambalaya and, of course, gumbo.
“We’re putting out a lot of gumbo right here in the winter season,” Grizzaffi said.
The Cajun Spoon started as a food truck in 2014. Both Grizzaffi and his wife Kristen are local musicians, but they wanted to do something fun during the week. The food truck turned into a catering company, then progressed into the realm of retail.
“We distribute [the mixes] to Associated grocery stores like Walmart, Rouse’s, Winn-Dixie, local places around here,” Ryan said.
For each mix sold, The Cajun Spoon will donate one packaged meal to families in need.
“We’ve been working with various food banks throughout the state,” Ryan said. “Last year, we donated a lot of product to Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank and the LSU Food Pantry.”
The Cajun Spoon has donated over 16,000 meals to food banks. Ryan said he wanted to continue to give back in other ways.
“We also started a scholarship fund to go toward LSU students studying agriculture,” Grizzaffi said. “Outside of just donating all these boxes of product, we’re trying to figure out other ways we can utilize that revenue so that it goes back into the community.”
In anticipation of the Louisiana Street Food Festival, Ryan invited City Pork and Gastreauxnomica chef Ryan Andre to collaborate on new dishes and new ventures.
“We’re just trying to team it up, doing kind of an Asian-fusion food truck at the Street Food Festival,” Andre said.
His expertise in Asian cuisine has inspired Ryan to branch out in his dinner mix line as well.
“I have a new company I just started called The Bamboo Chef,” Ryan said. “It is pretty much Asian cuisine. Some of our biggest customers in the Cajun market are Asian. I think the flavor profile and certain elements are very similar. That’s why I love Asian food.”
Andre is collaborating on these new mixes by helping Ryan perfect the flavors.
“I’m not trying to make my name as a chef. I learned how to cook because it was a necessity. I like to highlight the local chefs who took that step further.”
No matter the style of dish, Grizzaffi’s commitment to making food prep easier and his donation program has not only impacted the Baton Rouge community, but communities all over the country. He is actively sharing South Louisiana’s unique flavors with those who only interact with Cajun culture through his dinner mixes. The Cajun Spoon boxed meal kits are available in states as far west as California and as far north as Michigan. While the concentration of meal donations occur in Baton Rouge, Grizzaffi has helped people in need throughout the U.S.
“I think he and his wife are great people,” Andre said. “He is always looking to give back to the community in any way that he can. He is a great friend of mine.”