Great Louisiana Chef: Playing With His Food
Chef Jeremy Conner serves up playful coastal and bayou flavors at Spoonbill in Lafayette
While Spoonbill Watering Hole & Restaurant partner and chef Jeremy Conner isn’t originally from Louisiana, his deep southern roots (he was born in Opelika, Alabama) and passion for flavors are right at home in Lafayette. It is those qualities and years of experience working in kitchens from Pensacola, Florida to Alabama to Lafayette that are reflected in his unique Gulf Coast-meets-bayou menu at Spoonbill and that have made the restaurant a destination for food and fun lovers.
“I have lived in Louisiana for 11 years now and have developed a serious taste for the flavors of this area,” he said. “Combine them … with my immersion in the coastal flavors of Northwest Florida and you get a wide array of techniques and flavors that represent the best parts of Southern food.”
Conner has been cooking since he was a teen, at first just to earn some money, but he quickly embraced a career in the kitchen. Yet, while his skills and culinary know-how are top-notch, he maintains a sense of humor through his food, with a focus less on fanciful and more on flavorful.
“I like bold flavors,” he said. “I like foods with lots of acid and great textures. I always like to include something unexpected and fun. Even when the food is thoughtful and fancy, I want it to be playful and comfortable, and I never want to take it too seriously.”
That lighthearted take is reflected in the line up of offerings on the menu at Spoonbill, with the regular selection of lunch, brunch and dinner, but also with a special “linner” menu offered each day that may quickly become a favorite among afternoon visitors to the restaurant.
“We have a small kitchen, which means we need some time to get some prep done during the day, but we never want to turn guests away,” Conner said. “So instead of closing between lunch and dinner, we just reduce the size of the menu. My business partner and our general manager, Stephen Verret, is the head of the dad joke department and he came up with the term.”
What do you like to cook on your “day off”? I really like to cook gumbo and a few other things, but on my day off, I really like to eat food that other people make.
Oil for frying
1 quart all-purpose flour
¼ cup sugar
1½ tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons baking powder
1½ tablespoons blackening seasoning blend
2 cups buttermilk
1 ounce butter, melted
½ cup chopped tarragon
1 cup chopped parsley
2 cups corn kernels
2 pounds crawfish tail meat
chopped nori seaweed*
green onions, thinly sliced
1. Mix dry ingredients together in a bowl and wet ingredients together in another bowl. Add half the wet mixture to the dry mixture and mix until very lumpy. Add the rest of the wet mixture to the dry mixture and fold gently until just mixed. Do not overmix.
2. Heat oil to 350 F. Using spoons or a small ice cream scooper, add several ping pong ball size amounts of batter to the oil and fry until cooked through, about 4 minutes. You can use a cake tester or skewer to check for doneness. Carefully remove the fritters and place them on a plate lined with paper towels.
3. Allow the fritters to cool slightly and garnish with okonomiyaki sauce, kewpie mayonnaise, bonito flake, chopped nori, and green onions.
*Available at most Asian groceries