The Mother of all Pies
Imani Guillory Fruge has Cajun country and beyond talking about her savory Southern pies
Imani didn’t find out she was pregnant with her first son, Jason Paul, until three days before he was born in January of 2015.
Romero & Romero
As delivery day nears, the CEO of this accidental (and delicious) business frantically races around the rented commercial kitchen.
The whole place is hot. It’s sweaty. It smells like meat and butter and cheese. It ain’t pretty. Actually, it’s a grind, Imani Guillory Fruge is quick to point out.
But somehow, “Cajun Mama” manages to make the whole damn process look glamorous.
Chicly outfitted in luxury brand shoes, dresses and handbags, Fruge doesn’t mind if grease splatters on her designer goods if it means a $35 savory southern pie gets shipped to Abbeville on time.
“A lot of my friends joke and say I look like one of those Real Housewives on TV,” Fruge says. “And I get it, because I like to look nice and it makes me happy. But at the same time, those women aren’t doing what I’m doing. They aren’t cooking. They aren’t covered in flour running from oven to oven in stilettos. That’s real.
“Those pies, those are my babies,” Fruge says. “I talk to them, ‘Hey girls, you’re looking beautiful. Only 10 more minutes left. Mama loves you. Bake for mama.’ Yes, my friends think I’m psycho.”
The only thing that’s crazy however, is the meteoric success of Cajun Mama Pies a little over a year after its founding. It’s a wonder why Fruge fooled around getting her J.D. from LSU, and didn’t start slinging Loaded Cajuns (her best seller packed with sirloin, spicy chicken, thick-cut bacon, three kinds of cheese and a whole lotta love) sooner.
On average, Cajun Mama ships 200 pies weekly to destinations both near and far, and around holidays those online orders — www.cajunmamas.com for those getting hungry — tend to double. The rush has been so delightfully overwhelming that Fruge is flirting with the idea of leasing a storefront this summer and then hiring an actual staff instead of shamelessly recruiting her father, attorney and former Louisiana Senator Elbert Guillory, to “come in the kitchen and get down and dirty” when a swarm of orders need completing.
“A lot of people were confused why I would just give up and forego a legal career, and just cook,” Fruge says. “You’re just in a sweaty kitchen, busting yourself, making all these pies. But at the end of the day, those people know I’m going to do what makes me happy and this is what makes me happy. Plus, usually when I shove my food in their mouth, the questions stop. They get it. At that point, it’s a win-win.”
Cajun Mama’s menu is admittedly simple, but nonetheless satisfying.
After the aforementioned Loaded Cajun, Fruge offers patrons The Cajun Carnival — a pie with boudin, chicken, bacon, caramelized onions, bell pepper, cheddar cheese, mozzarella cheese and pepper jack cheese. If that isn’t enough gluttonous goodness for you, the whole thing is topped with seasoned cracklins. Popular during Lenten season is The Big Cajun Catch which subs crawfish tails, gulf shrimp and jumbo lump crabmeat for beef and pork. There’s also a vegetarian option, though because of the meat-based ethos of Cajun Mama, that pie is decidedly less fun to describe.
If it sounds like Fruge simply empties the butcher cabinet into her pies, well, that’s not far from the truth. In fact, Fruge started making these quiches for her husband, Jason Fruge, a little more than two years ago. Her recipe? “I just put every meat I could think of into it,” she admits. Apparently, the sweep-the-kitchen approach worked, because friends and family raved about the pie. Fruge received so much positive feedback that she informally posted on Facebook that she’d make pies for whoever wanted one for Christmas 2015.
In a matter of hours, Fruge had 60 orders.
Cajun Mama was born…whether Fruge was ready or not.
“OK, problem one, 60 orders! Are you kidding?” Fruge says. “I thought I’d get five or so orders from people who felt sorry for me and wanted to throw me a bone. ‘Oh, poor little housewife. You’re so cute. Here are a handful of orders.’ But no, 60. I had to buy all these boxes. And then I got a bunch more orders for Mardi Gras with locals having friends in from out of town.”
In a matter of months, Fruge transformed from housewife to hustler. She registered Cajun Mama as an LLC, found commercial kitchen space in Lafayette and has been solving good problems to have ever since. The majority of orders arrive at residences dotting Acadiana, but out of state shipments to Texas and California have spiked noticeably in recent months as word of mouth has spread.
A true believer in style and substance, Fruge presents her pies in pretty ribbon and other decorations and makes sure to include a photo of her looking at her Cajun Mama-est and her personal contact info with each order. Go ahead. Call her. Text her.
Actually, scratch that. If you’re eating a Cajun Mama pie, just text her.
“When you eat my pies, I’m not looking for compliments, I’m looking for silence,” Fruge says. “I don’t need you to talk. I want you to put another bite in your mouth. If you have time to stop and say, ‘Oh this is soooo good’ then I didn’t bake a good pie. That’s kind of the way I see it. So yeah, give me silence.”