7 Questions With Future Food Network Star Sac-A-Lait’s Chef Samantha Carroll
Chefs Sam and Cody Carroll prepare to fry some redfish as seen on their new Food Network TV show “Cajun Aces.”
This Saturday, cozy up in front of the TV to watch husband and wife local chefs, Cody and Samantha “Sam” Carroll, star in their premiere episode of “Cajun Aces” on The Food Network, and then book a table at their acclaimed restaurant Sac-a-Lait, 1051 Annunciation St., to see where the magic happens.
The award-winning culinary Carrolls are making their TV debut this weekend, taking viewers on a journey to explore Cajun cuisine and culture from their family farm in Batchelor, Louisiana, where they source everything from crawfish to okra, back to Sac-a-Lait in the Warehouse District and their first restaurant Hot Tails in New Roads, Louisiana. Both restaurants showcase the Carroll’s popular brand of hardcore South Louisiana farm-to-table cuisine.
Sam Carroll took some time away from the cameras to tell Biz why she’s ready for her close-up.
Leslie T. Snadowsky: Why do you think there is so much continued interest in Louisiana/Cajun cuisine on the national and international level?
Sam Carroll: We have something truly special here in Louisiana. The food culture here is totally unique compared to the rest of the world, and I think this is why so many people are interested in our cuisine. Louisiana is the only place that celebrates food every day as if it were a holiday. We've always believed that our cuisine is an all-star cuisine, and everything we do revolves around food. We also have tons of great chefs and a rich history. Alligator, turtle, frog and crawfish are some of the unique local ingredients that we incorporate into our cooking with delicious flavors and spices. The best part is that we even have festivals to celebrate them all!
LS: In today’s saturated social media culture how important is it to do what you’re doing to build brand awareness?
SC: Let’s just say we are glad we have a TV show because our social media game needs some work. It’s hard to think about posting pictures when you are cooking food in the kitchen, but this show will give everyone an inside peek into our lives as chefs, farmers and husband and wife.
LS: What’s it like being in front of the cameras all the time?
SC: On the show we explore, harvest and test ingredients just like we normally would, except now there is a camera following us around. They are filming our research and development for our restaurants. The first day we filmed comes to mind. It was a crew of about five people, and we met at a local marina in Batchelor, Louisiana. We introduced ourselves, and within five minutes we were mic'd up and fishing with a camera following us. That day was an adjustment, but now we text people in our crew and joke around with them. It’s like a kitchen crew – everyone is close.
LS: What new lessons have you learned about the restaurant business during the filming of your new TV show?
CS: That the employees and customers really don't mind the cameras being there. As long as they stay out of the way.
LS: Who are your favorite TV chefs?
CS: Emeril, hands down. If you want to learn how to be an amazing TV personality while cooking at the same time, look at everything he has ever done.
LS: What sets your brand of farm-to-table cooking apart, and why should locals eat at Sac-a-Lait and drive two hours northwest to Hot Tails in New Roads, Louisiana?
CS: I would say it’s more of a lifestyle than a brand. Cody grew up on a farm and depended on it to eat every day. We learned the importance of farmers and their crops and how seasonal their harvest is. At Sac-a-Lait we are retelling the story of seasonality. When an ingredient comes into season you cook what you can, you preserve what you can. You showcase these ingredients. We get excited for the seasons and what bounty they will bring. It’s similar to the excitement people feel when crawfish season kicks off, and they can have that first crawfish boil! At Sac-a-Lait we capture that excitement and celebration on the plate.
Hot Tails is in a more rustic setting. Taxidermy covers the walls from Cody and his family’s hunts. We designed Hot Tails to be a fun local restaurant where you can come after a long hunt, after school, or bring your maw maw out for a night on the town. The food is spicy, hence the name. We opened Hot Tails when we were 19 and 25, so it’s amazing to see how much of a destination it has become in such a small town.
LS: What are your 5- and 10-year business goals, and are any new restaurants in the works?
CS: We always have restaurant concepts in our mind. Our 5-year plan is to focus on this show like it’s a brand new business venture. We want to make it the best show on TV. Just like we push to make our restaurants the best they can possibly be, we want to do the same with this show. As for our 10-year plan, we hope to do a lot of traveling and have the opportunity to cook Louisiana cuisine for people all over the world. It’s what we love to do now, and it’s what we will always love to do.
The Food Network released the following episode synopses:
Season 1, Episode 1
Premiering Saturday, Dec. 2, 7:00 p.m. – “Crawfish and Mirliton”
It's the first weekend of crawfish season, so chefs Cody and Sam Carroll need to work out the kinks on new dishes at their restaurant, Hot Tails, to create a crawfish po'boy and baked crawfish mac and cheese. At Sac-a-Lait, the crawfish pot pie and crawfish echappee need to be masterpieces, because an opportunity like this only comes once a year.
Season 1, Episode 2
Premiering Saturday, Dec. 2, at 7:30 p.m. – “Pigs and Figs”
Homecoming weekend is a big deal in New Roads, Louisiana, and Hot Tails Restaurant expects to be swamped! Pigs are aplenty and figs are in season, so owners Cody and Sam Carroll aim to please the crowd with new dishes that make the most of these local ingredients. Wild boar jambalaya, cracklin with fig pepper jelly, sweet potato pork nachos, pork boudin eggs Benedict and fig-stuffed French toast will keep the masses happy they came, whether it's for dinner or Sunday brunch.
Season 1, Episode 3
Premiering Saturday, Dec. 9, at 6:00 p.m. – “Turkey and Pecans”
Autumn in southern Louisiana has chefs Cody and Sam Carroll reinventing old comfort food classics featuring turkey and pecans. A pecan chocolate cake and turkey neck consommé made with turkey bones and sweet peas should draw crowds to their restaurant, Sac-a-Lait. At their other restaurant, Hot Tails, the locals usually don't eat out on Sunday night, but Sam and Cody hope to lure them in with turkey fricassee with pecan rice and crab boil Buffalo turkey wings with cranberry pepper jelly.
Season 1, Episode 4
Premiering Saturday, Dec. 9, at 6:30 p.m. – “Redfish and Okra”
In Louisiana, they say if you can't cook redfish, you might as well pack your bags. Chefs Cody and Sam Carroll head out to the Gulf of Mexico for some late-night redfish bow hunting and plan to pair their catch with okra prepared in unexpected ways. At their restaurant Hot Tails, Cody and Sam prove they have what it takes to remain King and Queen of Seafood in Louisiana with Cajun-style fish and chips featuring a spicy ginger batter, fried okra chips and Creole tomato tartar sauce. At their other restaurant, Sac-a-Lait, the chefs turn it up a few more notches, serving blackened redfish with Green tomato court bouillon and grilled okra with tomato remoulade.