Chef Isaac Toups
Chef Isaac Toups’ energy is a bit like a toddler’s who’s chugged two lukewarm Mountain Dews and munched three bags of pop rocks. He seems always a breath away from some piquant smart-ass remark and he’s inescapably charming.
Most importantly, all of his heart and soul is committed to three things: making good food, taking care of his family and honoring his Cajun roots, which are heavily influenced by both of his grandmothers. Toups brings 300 years of his Cajun family traditions to all his menus.
At his meals growing up in Rayne, Louisiana, everything was always about the food.
“When we're eating breakfast we talked about what we were going to have for lunch,” he says. “All I have ever wanted to do is to offer my version of Cajun cuisine and to recreate that dining experience."
A New Orleans chef, restaurateur, author and TV personality, Toups was named “Fan Favorite” on Season 13 of of the Bravo TV show “Top Chef: California" and made it to the finale.
“Top Chef was good for my business,” he says. “We increased business tenfold. It's been a great platform.”
Since his appearance, he’s gone on to do a special for Food Network called “Kitchen Takeover” and written a cookbook called “Chasing the Gator: Isaac Toups and the New Cajun Cooking.” He’s also appeared in a variety of YouTube videos on how to do things like cure a cast iron frying pan or make a top-notch chicken and sausage gumbo.
Before "Top Chef" fame, Toups cooked for Emeril Lagasse. He started out as a fry cook and worked his way up to executive sous chef.
Now he owns Toups’ Meatery, which he and his wife Amanda opened in 2012 on North Carrollton Avenue, and Toups South, which is inside the Southern Food and Beverage Museum on Oretha Castle Haley Boulevard. Three times he has been named a James Beard Best Chef of the South Semi-finalist and finalist.
“I love to eat and I love to cook,” he says. “If you don't love it you need to not do it. The hours are long and the money sucks. You’d have to be sick to do this job. I guess that makes me a food psychopath.”
Toups will be volunteering his time and his food to the upcoming Edible Schoolyard New Orleans’ fundraiser, an Edible Evening on April 4.
“It's all about the kids,” he says. “Teaching them about food and culinary skills and the importance of growing your own.”
Never one to rest idle, he also offers Counter Club, a monthly off-menu dinner and brunch series at Toups South held at the restaurant’s exhibition kitchen counter.
“We've got this counter and I thought we ought to do something with it,” he says.
Counter Club dinner takes place on the third Thursday of each month. Guests enjoy four courses of imaginative, southern regional cuisine while interacting with Chef Toups and his team.
Diners can choose from two seating times: 6 p.m. or 8:30 p.m. Counter Club brunch takes place the second Sunday of each month at noon. It’s priced at $50 per person (excluding beverages, tax, and gratuity).
“The theme this Thursday will be 'Julia Child,'” says Toups, “mainly because I recently acquired a signed copy of her ‘Mastering the Art of French Cooking.’ Come enjoy some good food with a non-jerk chef.”
845 N Carrollton Ave.
1504 Oretha Castle Haley Blvd.