NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Chefs in white coats escorted the casket of world-renowned Cajun chef Paul Prudhomme into St. Louis Cathedral for his funeral Monday, and chefs from his restaurant were the dark-suited pallbearers who brought it back down the aisle after the Mass.
About 400 people — including Mayor Mitch Landrieu and chefs John Besh, John Folse and Tory McPhail — attended the funeral Monday in St. Louis Cathedral.
Also in attendance were board members of the American Culinary Federation's New Orleans chapter, who made up the white-coated honor guard.
Prudhomme died Thursday after a brief illness. He was 75.
The Louisiana native was one of the first American-born restaurant chefs to achieve worldwide fame. He never went to cooking school but, the youngest of 13 children, began learning from his mother. He became prominent in the early 1980s, soon after opening K-Paul's Louisiana Kitchen.
"It didn't matter who you were. He was always willing to talk food with you," said Paula Hoefeld, retired from Sclafani's Cooking School and a federation board member.
As mourners entered the cathedral, they picked up memorial cards with Prudhomme's photograph on one side and a 10-verse poem titled "A Cajun Chef's Recipe for Life" on the other. One verse ran, "His mama taught him / It's genuine care that makes flavor / Then he taught the world / To cherish and savor."
The Rev. Robert Cooper eulogized him as a determined man of faith who didn't let the failure of his first restaurant, a hamburger stand that closed after nine months in 1957, get him down. He had no children of his own but brought his employees and many others into his extended family, Cooper said.
Just after the Mass, the Rev. Msgr. Andrew Taormina, of Prudhomme's home parish, had a suggestion for the mayor, who has proposed removing four Confederate monuments. The statue of Robert E. Lee could be replaced with "a statue of Chef Paul in his chef's whites and hat, holding a blackened redfish," Taormina said.
The spiced, bronzed filet was among Prudhomme's signature dishes.
After the Mass, the pallbearers — K-Paul's executive chef Paul Miller and other chefs from the restaurant — brought the casket down the aisle to Jackson Square, where a brass band played a dirge and hundreds of tourists snapped cellphone photos.
Priests, mourners and band members then followed the hearse 3½ blocks to K-Paul's.
Inside, bottles of Prudhomme's Magic Seasoning Blends stood in front of pans of gumbo, corn maque choux, shrimp and andouille Creole, jambalaya, and other dishes for an invitation-only reception.
Outside, a crowd chanted "Paul! Paul! Paul!"