Louisiana Restaurant Association’s Wendy Waren’s Hidden Talent
Running a small business is a demanding challenge. Growing up in Laplace, Wendy Waren learned that lesson firsthand. Her grandparents owned a small business that delivered office trailers to places like job sites and schools.
“My grandparents raised me and I know how hard it is to be a small business owner,” she says. “My grandmother kept the books and my grandfather was gone from early morning until, many nights, way after dark.”
For almost 11 years Waren’s been serving small business owners as the vice president of communication for the Louisiana Restaurant Association (LRA).
“I love being able to help people,” she says. “It’s the very best part of my job.”
Her boss, LRA president Stan Harris, considers her an important part of his team and says what she brings to her job can be summed up in one word: passion.
“She loves New Orleans," says Harris. “She loves our food, culture, music, events and people. She embraces her LRA role with enthusiasm because she sees food as a thread that connects all us to the past, present and future. Serving our members is a deeper connection for her than most.”
Waren’s been married to Drue Deshotels, a prairie Cajun from Eunice, for 20 years. In the early years of their marriage she was merely his sous chef.
“But then I started cooking more because I loved it so much," she says. "But he would still come in at the very end and ‘put the bam on it’—his words.”
Waren often posts on Facebook about her cooking and Susan Ford, publisher of Louisiana Kitchen and Culture, saw some of these posts and asked Waren if she would share her culinary adventures with the magazine’s readers.
“I publish her recipes without question because I know they’ve been meticulously developed and documented,” says Ford.
One such recipe was for Cajun bouie, a stew made from organ meat (heart, kidney, spleen and sweet breads), tomatoes and corn. Waren gets the ingredients at a superette in Eunice.
“It was a bit out of my comfort zone at first but it makes the very best gravy,” she says.
It’s not surprising that a woman who enjoys helping people through her work would also volunteer her efforts during her time off. Recently, Waren met an earnest gentleman at a career fair who had just been released from Angola; she wanted to help. So, with the aid of some of her friends, he found a bit of hope and lots of valuable help and now has a job at Brennan's, some clothes and a recently opened checking account.
“I’ve been learning a lot about the challenges these men face when they get released,” she says. “It’s hard for them. I’m glad I could help.”
Waren’s current work at LRA is getting the word out about how her organization is helping the restaurant industry in Houston.
The Louisiana Restaurant Association, in partnership with the Texas Restaurant Association is awarding individual grants to the hospitality industry. The Hospitality Employee Relief Fund will donate to restaurant and hotel workers who are in a position of hardship during their long recovery from Harvey. Here’s a link to a page where you can donate.
“It’s really a privilege to serve the Louisiana restaurant industry,” she says. “Being a restaurateur is a truly admirable profession and I’m blessed to have this position.”