If you're a flavour-loving foodie and a fan of hearty comfort food, then you'll love Krimsey's Cajun Kitchen! Jen Jones catches up with the Cajun chef herself to chat about the restaurant and what you can expect to try from her Cajun Vegan Cookbook.
With roots in Louisiana and a talent for creating delicious home-cooked Cajun food, Krimsey's Cajun Kitchen is here to show everyone that you can veganise anything and even make it better! So, what can you expect from a visit? Read on to find out.
Image: Krimsey pouring fresh Abita beer on tap (from Abita Springs, LA)
Jen: We love your voodoo logo, is there a story behind that?
Krimsey: She represents playfulness, connection, healing, and curiosity--much like original voodoo practices were meant to bring to their users. Although it is mostly an ancient practice, Voodoo has no scripture or world authority. It is community-centred and supports individual experience, empowerment and responsibility. We love that and identify with what it represents. Voodoo wasn’t intended to be evil and scary, like Hollywood would like us to believe.
Jen: How did you go from a petroleum engineer to chef, have you always had an interest in food?
Krimsey: I grew up in Louisiana around all the classic Cajun dishes like jambalaya, gumbo, hush puppies, that kind of stuff. I never really cooked that much, but when I went vegan – I was 20 and living in Louisiana – I started cooking more and eventually got to the point where I was bored of the normal stuff and started experimenting with veganising the Cajun recipes. I don’t have an official culinary background; I didn’t go to cooking school, it’s more just like family recipes and classics modified, and a new twist on old dishes.
So, when I was working in the industry I started to feel disconnected from my purpose there, the more I learned about the world and life, the more I realized that the petroleum industry is not where I wanted to be and so I redirected my attention to where I did want to be. That was towards helping propel the vegan movement forward in some sort of positive way and one of the fastest ways to do that is through food. A lot of people get hung up on the “what do I eat?” and “where do I go?” and “I miss cheese” and that kind of thing! I wanted to have a positive, judgment-free zone for anyone who’s interested in trying out vegan food.
Image: Cajun Jambalaya, Smoky Okra Gumbo, and Louisiana Cornbread Muffin.
Jen: Sounds like a good introduction to veganism through food! What was the reason you decided to go vegan, was there a turning point for you?
Krimsey: Yeah, I saw a factory farming video. I saw that it was so bad, I didn’t even believe it and I had to spend some time with it and kind of accept that that was actually happening. You know, at first, I was like “oh, that’s not every farm” or “that’s only one bad example” but I did some more research and realized – no, that’s pretty much where it all comes from. It made me sick to my stomach and I wanted no part of it anymore. I kind of went vegan overnight, it was quite a change because I didn’t know any vegans and veganism is not accepted at all in the South, or it wasn’t 12 years ago.
Jen: It can be quite a shock to the system seeing stuff like that for the first time.
Krimsey: Yeah, it’s traumatizing! But there’s billions of animals that go through that all the time and I just can’t be a part of it.
Jen: So, what would we expect from a visit to Krimsey’s Cajun Kitchen? What is the general feel of the place like?
Krimsey: It feels very homey and vintage kind of classic stuff. Whenever possible, we source everything reclaimed, all our furniture, tables and decor. Anything in the restaurant we try to reclaim and re-purpose it. It’s like counter service, very casual, you come in and have a chat – our people love chatting! We bring the food out to you and wait on you at the table, but in general, it’s just a cosy homey vibe.
Image: Krimsey's Cajun Kitchen during their monthly live Cajun music night
Jen: That sounds lovely, I hear your restaurant isn’t instantly recognizable as vegan from the outside – what kind of response have you had from non-vegans?
Krimsey: Yeah, you’re right, because we don’t advertise that we do get walk-ins. They’re always shocked but I would say most of the time they agree to stick around to try something and the response is almost always positive. They’re just surprised that much flavor can come from vegan food and that they can feel full – which as a vegan I’m like, of course you can! But for someone who hasn’t had it before it’s good to connect the dots for them. It’s nice to introduce them that way and then they usually follow up with something like “oh well maybe I can try some other stuff” and “we’ll definitely be back”. So, we like being that first step into veganism even if it’s just by accident.
Jen: So, do you get people who can’t believe its vegan food and assume it would just be any usual dish that they’ve had before?
Krimsey: Yeah, one time I was working behind the counter and we have a bar where people can sit and eat. The customer was eating the jambalaya talking to me and then he started talking about how he was in the sausage business and he used to be part of a sausage company. He described what part of the sausage was good and how you can tell what is good quality. At some point I realized that he didn’t know that we're vegan and that it was vegan sausage and so I never told him because he never explicitly asked. I just let him enjoy the rest of his meal and leave. Sometimes it’s better to just let people discover it on their own when they’re ready, I don’t want to drop that bomb on them if they’re not ready, so he figured it out in his own time.
Image: The Pride Poboy - 10% of profits donated to "The Trevor Project" to support LGBTQ+ youth
Jen: So, what would you say your most popular dish is?
Krimsey: The popular dish is definitely the New Orleans poboy, we use heart of palm in our made from scratch batter which is fried up. It sort of has this ‘shrimpy’ feel, without feeling like fake meat, it’s just like its own good whole food on a poboy and it’s super flavorful and delicious. People usually order it with Cajun potato wedges or potato salad or fried okra. But the poboy itself is our most popular dish on the menu.
Jen: That sounds great! Vegans tend to get the short straw when it comes to desserts, what is your most loved dessert option on the menu?
Krimsey: Yeah, our beignets are definitely the most popular, we do rotate the desserts too but beignets are a classic staple. People are used to seeing them under the French Quarter but they’re not vegan. We do a vegan version that we would like to believe is better! It’s made from scratch dough, fried and topped with powdered sugar. We also have a beignet that we stuffed with our homemade brownie, which is our Voodoo Brownie Beignet – that’s really popular. Then we have a pecan praline, which is like a Southern hard candy which is really hard to find vegan and we do a version if that which people come back for all of the time and they will take a box full when they go to give to their family.
Image: Krimsey's dessert beignets topped with powdered sugar
Jen: Wow that sounds amazing! So, for those of us from overseas who can’t make it to your restaurant, you have a cookbook on your website – what does that include?
Krimsey: The book has a few of our restaurant recipes actually, like hush puppies, there's a poboy recipe, jambalaya and gumbo. So if you really want to make it yourself you can! There's other southern staples like casseroles, there's a king cake recipe in there – all the main Cajun classics you can find in there and make yourself.
Jen: Do you have any recipes that would be good for batch cooking?
Krimsey: I would say that our jambalaya and gumbo recipes – and there's the casserole that you could make a big tray of and eat out of all week.
Jen: What does the future have in store for Krimsey's – do you have any plans to branch out or release another cookbook?
Krimsey: Yeah, I'm kind of always stockpiling recipes for cookbook number two so that when it's time I can just put them all in one. As far as restaurants to I'm in lease negotiations right now on location number two with plans to keep going and eventually leave California. But location number two that we're negotiating on is in the Los Angeles area.
You can find a copy of the Krimsey's Cajun Kitchen cookbook on their website and if you're ever in the North Hollywood area then don't forget to check the restaurant out!
By Digital Content Officer, Jen Jones
The views expressed by our bloggers are not necessarily the views of The Vegan Society.