SHOWCASING LOUISIANA: Pardo’s Restaurant in Mandeville
MANDEVILLE, La. (WAFB) - Crisply folded linen napkins sit at the ready. Empty wine glasses sparkle at each seat. The dining room inside Pardo’s Restaurant in Mandeville is silent.
In the back, pans clang, blenders whir, and kitchen staff wield knives over fresh vegetables in preparation for tonight’s dinner.
“We focus a lot on seafood.” Corporate Chef Rob Vazquez says from his place behind the stove. He and Executive Chef Eli Wilson are preparing for a fight. Chef Rob drizzles oil in a hot pan and adds slivers of fresh zucchini. He is the reigning King of Louisiana Seafood, and he is about to defend the state’s honor and reputation in this weekend’s Great American Seafood Cookoff.
It’s a big deal, especially when you consider Chef Rob’s roots.
Chef Rob remembered. “My mother-in-law said one day, ‘It’s a pretty big accomplishment to be from Arizona and be the Louisiana Seafood King.’”
That’s right, Louisiana’s Seafood King learned to cook in a land-locked state. Chef Rob began his career as a dishwasher in Guadalupe, AZ. He worked his way up in the kitchen, but never attended culinary school.
20 years ago, Chef Rob moved to New Orleans and worked for a time as a chef at The Roosevelt Hotel. He admits, when he first moved here, he did not even know what jambalaya or gumbo was. “I just thought to take the course of learning gumbo,” he said, “going to one of my line cook’s houses, and I wanted to learn from his mother.”
Once here, it didn’t take him long to learn what locals have always known about Louisiana seafood. “The red snapper, grouper, speckled trout, flounder, the list goes on.” Chef Rob said, “Shrimp orders -- the variety, and the size -- you fall in love.”
He is pouring all that love into a secret dish he and Chef Eli will use to continue the state’s three-year run as the Great American Seafood KIng. “I’ve got to win for Louisiana,” he said. “I’ve got to do it.”
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