LAPLACE — Teau Frederic couldn’t bear the sight of food trucks rolling into LaPlace in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida, selling expensive food out of a desire for profit rather than relief or kindness.
Frederic set up two blue tents at 801 Mallard Street in LaPlace, across the highway from Airline Motors. Each day, he cooks decadent Cajun food without any fixed prices or expectations of payment.
While living and working in Asheville, North Carolina, Frederic was crowned the king of culinary busking. Being able to bring Teaufood Culinary Busking back home to LaPlace is a miracle and a dream come true, especially when it involves helping a community grappling with hurricane devastation.
Simply put, culinary busking is food talent for tips. Chefs set up their kitchens festival-style and showcase their talent without ever charging for their food. No one is turned away for not being able to pay, and if someone insists on asking what to tip, Frederic responds, “Anything over zero would be fine.”
Tips help fund the purchase of food and supplies to continue serving customers day after day.
“People in LaPlace right now don’t have $5 for a sandwich, much less $15, which is what they’re being charged. It really affected me on a personal level to see people benefitting from the fact that we are in a state of emergency,” Frederic said. “With a culinary busking, the kindness and the level of faith in humanity rises full circle.
“People do tip you, and it doesn’t matter if they only have $2. It comes from the heart. All we want to do is feed you and showcase our talent with the world, and the world in turn benefits from the talent and the passion of the chefs who do culinary busking.”
Culinary busking also allows chefs the opportunity to showcase their signature dishes with more creative freedom than what would be allowed in a restaurant setting.
The Teaufood Culinary Busking offerings change each day. One fan favorite is Frederic’s signature gulf shrimp and crawfish quesadillas. The “Ninja nachos” include pork slow roasted over an award-winning sauce and poured along with cheese over hand-fried corn or flour tortilla chips. The debris surrounding Airline Motors across the street inspired Frederic to create dirty south debris fries, which include a crispy combination of waffle and crinkle-cut fries and tater tots topped with bacon, fresh green onions and one-of-a-kind gravy.
Teaufood Culinary Busking is quickly growing through word of mouth, and Frederic has enjoyed serving meals to old friends while simultaneously reconnecting with his roots.
“Before this, I had no faith. I have received so much support and kindness from the community that I grew up in, it is really overwhelming. It has restored my faith in humanity. No matter what walk of life you’re from, we have to pull together,” Frederic said.
Growing up in LaPlace, Frederic dreamed of becoming an artist or a rockstar. Drawing pictures didn’t pay the bills, so he ended up taking art from the pad to the plate.
His culinary talent was cultivated at an early age. With one parent attending night school and another operating the family business, 11-year-old Frederic was taught to be self-sufficient in the kitchen.
Frederic moved to Asheville in 1998 with culinary background in only Cajun food. He was exposed to different styles of cooking while working at various food joints in the eclectic city. After starting out at a Greek restaurant, Frederic later worked at a French Quarter-inspired location where he moved from being a hired-on chef to executive chef in less than a year.
He specialized in Mexican food while working as a food preparer for the University of North Carolina. Frederic also cooked for a popular breakfast spot known as Rise and Shine Café. However, after suffering from plantar fasciitis and having to work through pain, he felt it was time for a change.
Frederic got a second job checking IDs at the door of a bar on the river at the time the food truck movement was taking off. After a particularly bad day at work, Frederic went home and cooked a pot of jambalaya. He walked into the bar and put two plates down family-style before asking if he could sell Cajun food at the bar.
The owners said he couldn’t sell the food, but he could busk it. It was the start of a new dream for Frederic, one that he hopes to continue in LaPlace even after the region recovers from Hurricane Ida.
Frederic currently works as a chef at Wayne Jacobs Smokehouse in LaPlace, which was significantly damaged during the hurricane.
“The owner has been so kind, donating to go boxes, propane, equipment, and just being so open to the idea,” Frederic said.
Frederic plans to expand Teaufood Culinary Busking to include a breakfast shift starting around 5 a.m. and a dinner shift ideally lasting from 5 to 9 p.m.
Daily hours and menu offerings are posted on the Teaufood Culinary Busking Facebook page.