Anthony Joseph left his native New Orleans in 2005 in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. While his old Louisiana neighborhood has been completely destroyed, Joseph brought one thing with him to Atlanta that no storm could wipe out—his knowledge of Louisiana cooking.
“My grandmother raised me because my mother was, well, caught up in another world and my father was a Black Panther, so I grew up in my grandmother’s kitchen. She loved to cook and I would ask her, ‘Grandma, how do you cook this, how do you cook that?’”
Now a chef at Emeritus Senior Living in Decatur, Joseph takes pride in preparing food the residents enjoy. “You could just warm up the beans and serve them and that would be all right with some people who cook at places like this, but I like to add some onion, some garlic—give it some taste,” he said.
His specialty is shrimp jambalaya, made from a recipe he developed himself. “Each time I made it I would try a little something different,” he said. “I seems the more I experimented the more people like it.”
“Anthony’s shrimp jambalaya is as tasty and authentic a recipe as any in New Orleans,” said Rachel Kohl, regional director of operations at Emeritus at Decatur. “The residents just love it.”
Joseph tried driving a truck for a while, but said, “It was just a way to make money; I didn’t love it. I love cooking. Most truck drivers stop on the road and eat at a restaurant. I waited until I got home and cooked my own food.”
When he placed his daughter, who’s now 11, in nursery school he asked the kitchen staff lots of questions about how the food was prepared. They ended up hiring him to cook there. “They told me, ‘It doesn’t pay much,’ and I said, ‘That’s OK. I cook for the smiles. I cook for the enjoyment.’”
Youngsters at the school raved so about the food Joseph prepared that parents started asking questions. “How did you get my kid to eat carrots?” a parent asked. “He never eats carrots at home, but he loves your carrots.”
After his daughter was in elementary school she told her dad that he should cook for the school, and that opportunity came. For career day, Joseph came to the school and talked to his daughter’s class about his work as a chef. He brought beignets (Pronounced been-YAY), a New Orleans fried dough pastry, traditionally sprinkled with powdered sugar. “There was powder sugar everywhere. They loved it,” he recalled.
“All the parents have to put in a certain number of volunteer hours,” Joseph continued. “When they found out I cook, that’s what they wanted me to do.”
Joseph said he uses little salt in his jambalaya because “there’s plenty of taste in there already.” He also never measures. “I have a talent for gauging amounts without measuring,” he said. “I can tell half a cup just by looking at it.”
At restaurants where he’s worked over the years, Joseph said, he has created his own dishes and developed his own sauces and seasonings. “Everyone has something they are blessed to do well,” he said. “I believe we are supposed to use the gifts we are given to make life nicer for other people. With me, it’s cooking.”
Joseph Anthony’s Shrimp Jambalaya
1-1/2 to 2 pounds of small, raw shrimp (40-50 count) peeled and washed (save about a cup of the
3-4 onions, chopped
4 stalks celery, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
In a black iron pot, add a little oil and sauté the onions. Kick up the heat a little and get them to
brown some. Lower the fire a little and throw in the celery and bell pepper. While this is cooking, put shrimp shells in about 2 cups of water for about 15 minutes. Strain and reserve 1/2 cup of the shell liquid.
5 medium cloves of garlic, minced
Once the trinity is almost cooked down, add the garlic and stir. Cook until the trinity is cooked
down, then add the 1/2 cup of the shrimp shell liquid and the following seasonings:
1/2 tsp. Creole seasoning (such as Zatarain’s)
1/3 tsp. black pepper
1/4 tsp. Louisiana hot sauce
1 or 2 bay leaves
Stir this in well, cook for a minute or so and then taste. You’re looking for a little peppery taste.
The reason being is you have to have enough seasoning for the shrimp and the rice as they will
absorb it. Add 3 cups of water. This is all the water you’re going to use for the dish. Add shrimp and enough water to cover the shrimp.
Parboiled rice is cooked with butter or oil 2 tablespoons depending on how many you’re
1 cup rice
2 1/2 cups of water
2 tablespoons of butter or oil
Cook for 15 – 20 minutes
Bring shrimp and ingredients mix to a boil, add rice and cook until the shrimp are red, stirring often. Once finished, let simmer for 10 minutes.