Let ‘em Eat Crawfish
Chris “Shaggy” Davis is manning his boil with precision and grace. As he laddles out the red crawfish they steam and glisten in the late spring sun. Half a dozen or so clients are queued up, standing the requisite 6 feet apart, waiting eagerly to procure these tasty crustaceans. Soon they’ll be piled onto newspaper-covered tables and fingers and faces will be covered in spicy crawfish goodness.
To many, Shaggy is New Orleans’ Crawfish King. For more than 20 years, his catering businesses, NOLA Crawfish King and NOLA Cochon King, have been the main culinary attraction at some of the poshest New Orleans parties and elite festivals around the country.
He’s also the producer of The NOLA Crawfish Festival, which combines the finest in New Orleans musicians with, of course, all things crawfish.
“What can I say, crawfish are one of my favorite foods,” he says.
Davis worked at Port of Call for 15 years and did his catering on the weekends before he decided to turn his passion into a full-time, highly successful catering business. Many businesses have felt the sting of this pandemic, but it couldn’t have happened at a worse time for Davis.
“Our crawfish season is roughly between the beginning of March and the end of June,” he says. “This pandemic has cost me 65 jobs because it’s at the height of the season. I was scheduled to do jobs at Tulane, Loyola, and LSU, just to name a few.”
Luckily, six months ago Davis made what turned out to be a shrewd business decision, he bought a food truck.
“It’s what’s keeping us above water right now,” he says. “Without it we’d be drowning.”
For the past few weekends Davis has been setting up his colorful truck in the parking lot of Happy Discount, a gas station/convenience store on Franklin Avenue in Gentilly. He’s been averaging about 1,500 lbs per day.
“I live in Gentilly and I used to bring my leftover crawfish to this store at the end of the day and exchange it for ice,” he says. “When I was brainstorming about how we could survive I realized this was a perfect space.”
New Orleans’ Crawfish King is also offering takeout and delivery of both crawfish and barbeque.
Davis has a barbecue pit set up in a lot behind his house where he smokes the meat for such things as cochon deLait po-boys, brisket po boys and pecan smoked wings. He offers a wide variety of sides and everything is vacuum-sealed.
He says he’s taking a huge financial hit but feels fortunate to have jobs already booked in the future and that many of the big festivals such as Jazz Fest have been rescheduled.
Like so many parents, Davis has also recently taken on the job of teacher — helping his 8-year-old daughter navigate her schoolwork.
“I think businesses are going to have to rework with a new normal in the future,” he says, “but for now, stay safe and enjoy life and crawfish.”
Want to try your hand at a Shaggy boil? One of Davis’ recipes appears on the Food Network’s website.