Keep An Eye On This Guy
Crawfish Town USA’s Colt Patin is a ‘Chef to Watch’ for more reasons than the great food he turns out.
By Anna Purdy
Another local chef is on the statewide radar. Colt Patin of Breaux Bridge’s Crawfish Town USA has been selected by Louisiana Cookin’ magazine as a 2011 Chef to Watch.
Don’t be deceived by the fact that Patin graduated just this past January from the Louisiana Culinary Institute in Baton Rouge with an associate’s degree in culinary arts and a concentration in advanced baking and pastries, for he already has a long career in Louisiana kitchens: assistant sous chef at Café des Amis, breakfast chef at Prejean’s and executive chef at Clementine’s in New Iberia. Crawfish Town, owned by Johnny and Wendy Hebert, is where Patin has made his home-away-from home since the Heberts purchased it in 2005. He was promoted to executive chef in 2008.
Louisiana Cookin’ notes this year its network of culinary enthusiasts around the state nominated a record number of chefs for consideration for the prestigious award. The list was then narrowed down to “five talented young chefs who possess an understanding and respect for Louisiana’s unique culinary heritage while exhibiting the creativity and energy needed to engage today’s diners,” according to the magazine. Joining Patin in receiving the 2011 Chefs to Watch Awards are Cory Bahr, executive chef-owner of Restaurant Sage in Monroe and 102 A Bistro in Ruston; Drew Dzejak, executive chef of The Grill Room at the Windsor Court in New Orleans; Nathan Gresham, executive chef-owner of Beausoleil in Baton Rouge; and Philip Lopez, executive chef of Rambla in New Orleans.
Patin’s traditionally Cajun menu at Crawfish Town was a big hit with the judges. Featuring plenty of seafood and spice, the menu changes it up every four to six months for a seasonal and new flair. There is crawfish, frog legs, redfish, shrimp and more. If that doesn’t float your boat, try the filet mignon, the sirloin, steak, ribs or chicken. Located at 2815 Grandpoint Highway, Crawfish Town is open for lunch and dinner seven days a week. Patin’s philosophy is to keep food simple yet with enough kick to stand up to the best of what traditional Louisiana restaurants have to offer.
The Chef to Watch every year hosts a gala that announces and praises the selected chefs, who each prepare a five-course meal. The gala is open to the public and raises money for Café Reconcile, an innovative program that takes teenagers deemed “at-risk youth” and teaches them the culinary trade. Working in conjunction with the Louisiana Hospitality Foundation, the kids are trained and put into job placement programs. Tickets are available through the Louisiana Cookin’ site; the Aug. 22 gala will be held at the Theatre in Harrah’s in New Orleans.
Café Reconcile is located at 1631 Oretha Castle Haley Blvd. in New Orleans. It is open to the public and has fantastic lunch specials prepared by the kids and overseen by cooks, teachers and chefs who work with the children. This program also helps kids secure financial aid for further schooling as well as offering support for abuse issues.
Patin himself is no stranger to charity. A few years ago he and his family founded the non-profit Heartstrings & Angel Wings, which helps to clothe premature babies. This foundation is close to Patin’s heart. Three years ago his son, Heath, was born at only 25 weeks — 16 weeks premature and weighing a little more than a pound. When Patin and his wife, Heidi, learned that clothes for premature babies were incredibly expensive, they founded this charity to bring shirts, gowns, hats, blankets, incubator covers and other items to families struggling to nurse preemies back to health. “Volunteers meet once a month at my mom’s house,” Patin says. “They make all the items that we donate to the hospitals.” Every March, Patin hosts a gumbo cook-off to benefit Heartstrings and Angel Wings. For more information about the charity or to volunteer your time go to heartstringsandangelwing.org.
This year’s Chef to Watch honor could not have found a more community-minded chef. On top of his own charity, Patin supports G.U.M.B.O. (Games Uniting Mind and Body), a track and field competition for kids who have disabilities, Palates and Pâté and Opelousas Catholic Tasters Dinner. He also judges the Iron Chef 4-H competition yearly in Breaux Bridge and supports the Jerry Lewis Telethon by cooking a dinner in the home of the raffle winner.