Hot Tails, Sac-a-Lait chefs on cooking at James Beard House

On 12th Street in New York City sits the house built by “Dean of American Cookery” James Beard. A historic landmark of American cuisine, the James Beard House has hosted culinary greats like Emeril Lagasse to cook special dinners in-house for nearly three decades, and chefs across America dream of receiving an invitation of their own.

On Oct. 1, two local chefs joined the ranks as they served up authentic and outlandish Louisiana cuisine from the legendary kitchen. Cody and Samantha Carroll, the husband-and-wife duo behind New Roads’ Hot Tails and New Orleans’ Sac-a-Lait, made the trip to New York to introduce foodies to their homegrown flavors.

“It is the highest honor we’ve ever been reached out to for,” Samantha says. “[Sac-a-lait] had only been open for seven days when we got the invitation, and it was such a high-anxiety time that when we got the call, we were like, ‘Holy crap, is this real?’ It was definitely a ‘pinch me’ moment.”

Though the invitation was a thrill, the Carrolls never had any doubt what they’d be dishing up at the dinner.

The sweet fried alligator with white rémoulade and hand-mashed mirliton the Carroll's plated at the James Beard House. Courtesy Jay Ducote
The sweet fried alligator with white rémoulade and hand-mashed mirliton the Carrolls’ plated at the James Beard House. Courtesy Jay Ducote

“The goal is to show them real Louisiana food,” Cody told 225 in June. “We’re shipping ingredients we’d always use—local ingredients—up there, and we’re bringing our chefs so we can show them how we cook down here in Louisiana.”

The Carrolls’ menu consisted of a wide range of Cajun dishes. Some were elevated classics, like sweet fried alligator with white rémoulade, pain perdu-style Gulf fish and venison sweetbreads, while other dishes played with more experimental—yet still authentically Cajun—ingredients like turtle boudin, duck tongues and pig ears.

“It was amazing,” Samantha says of their menu’s reception from the diners. “It felt like our whole lives and careers as chefs had led up to this, all those catering jobs where we had to bring our whole kitchen somewhere else and the skill and organization it takes. It was all practice for this.”

Bite and Booze blogger and Food Network Star finalist Jay Ducote flew to New York to support the Carrolls and assisted in the prep work for the dinner, which Ducote confirms was a success.

“It went over extremely well. Their style of cooking is so uniquely Cajun. They’re taking the Cajun ingredients and ingredients you don’t find everywhere—a lot of wild game, alligator, oysters, frog legs, venison—and it’s really cool to see that kind of food cooked on a stage like at the James Beard House,” Ducote says. “And all the diners there were extremely excited about it. Any time a Louisiana chef goes and cooks there, it draws a crowd.”

The Carrolls returned home with a new honor to add to their growing clout, and Samantha says it’s renewed the chefs’ drive to be “the next generation of Louisiana cooking.” They did leave one thing in New York, though: their signatures on the James Beard House’s chef coat, as Samantha shared on Instagram.

“It was everything I dreamed of and more,” Samantha wrote.