Jambalaya Shoppe serves hot food without electricity

Wade McIntyre
The Jambalaya Shoppe in Gonzales drew large crowds when it was one of the few restaurants in town serving hot food the day after Gustav.

A long line of hungry customers stretched from The Jambalaya Shoppe in Gonzales to Airline Highway during the day Tuesday.

In the wake of Hurricane Gustav, when virtually all restaurants in the city were shut down without electricity, owner Cheryl Fontenot served up plates of the dish that made Gonzales famous.

Chalk up the hot food to big pot cooking on a gas stove.

“We cooked up a pot and thought we would see how it went,” Fontenot said.

“It” went like it hotcakes, and the shop kicked into high gear turning out jambalaya.

“From 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. we sold every bit of jambalaya we could cook as fast as we could cook it,” said Fontenot.

Customers stood patiently in line without a single complaint, according to the owner.

“When we ran out between batches, we told those in line it would take about an hour for more jambalaya, but nobody left the line. They waited until we started serving again.”

Before the day was over, and the shop ran out of ingredients, “they cleaned out every piece of meat we had in the place,” Fontenot said.

Wednesday, the shop opened again, with more supplies and more big pots cooking on gas burners. While the line of customers never reached the highway, the crowds at The Jambalaya Shoppe were much larger than the normal lunch rush.

The shop cooked whatever jambalaya it could get meat ingredients for, but customers did not mind.

“They were happy to get whatever we were able to cook,” Fontenot said. “We cook whatever meat comes in from our suppliers and they buy whatever we serve.”

Fontenot said her meat supplier for the past ten years called and said they were unable to make deliveries after the storm. Grocery store owners Blair Lamendola and Marcy LeBlanc were able to take up the slack, sending chicken and pork to the shop, she said.

The owner of The Jambalaya Shoppe, who could be seen Wednesday serving orders and chatting through the pick-up window, said she has never seen anything like business generated in the aftermath of Gustav.

“We’re just glad we are able to feed people at a time like this,” she said.

Thursday morning, Fontenot said by phone that customers were standing in line under the order and pickup windows to keep out of the rain while waiting for the first batch of jambalaya to come out.

“We don’t do call in orders so people have to come by,” the owner said. “A lot of the customers have been transients. They don’t know much about jambalaya, but they are still getting some of the best food they ever had.”