I have driven along Hospital Road in the Pointe Coupee Parish town of New Roads many times. To me, the street is a switch-over from one highway to another on the way to and from Central Louisiana. Most often my arrival is around lunch time, so I have eaten along the road often; a few times at the Dairy Freeze, which is now closed despite the mushroom burger which was actually pretty good, but most often at a place called False River Seafood where the Vietnamese staff serve up plates full of fried seafood over a dish that frequently gets lost in other places, but there is very good, chicken-fried rice.
I might have stopped there again during my last trip except for a new discovery down at the far end of the road, a place called Hot Tails that I had somehow never noticed before. I thought I knew all the restaurants in New Roads – there aren’t that many of them – but this one had been unnoticed. Not anymore. A week earlier, I had been a judge at the Louisiana Seafood Promotion & Marketing Board’s Seafood Cook-Off competition. One of the contestants was Hot Tails’ Cody Carroll, who served a Speckled Trout Perdu dish that had so many flavorful ingredients it had to be served in a bowl. Though we judges never got to see the tabulated votes, from talking to other judges after the contest I suspect Chef Carroll won by a landslide.
By sheer circumstance I happened to be driving by Hot Tails a week later. I stopped in long enough to take a picture of Carroll and his sous chef and wife, Samantha. New Roads is hardly a media center, but the word of the local guy’s success was getting out. As I got out of my automobile, a woman who was getting into hers asked me if I had eaten there before.
I told her I had not. Then she and her husband sided up next to men as though to deliver a state secret: “Last week he was selected the Louisiana Seafood King.” “Wow!” I responded.
Carroll’s crown is now on display in a trophy case inside the restaurant. So too are diplomas he and Samantha earned from the Baton Rouge-based Louisiana Culinary Institute.
Seeing the couple pose together reminded me that last year’s Cook-Off winner, Keith Frentz of Lola restaurant in Covington, was also part of a tandem with his wife, Nealy Crawford-Frentz. Might we be seeing a new generation of chef teams who studied cooking together and now are creating imaginative new dishes, not just in the big city, but along country roads, too?
Carroll is proud of the restaurant he converted from a former drive-through convenience store. He’s also excited about his neighborhood.
Down the block across the street, a new Walmart is rising. Across the road, work has begun on a strip shopping center. “I am going to get a bigger sign,” he said. I suspect he will need it.