Sheryl Boudy learned to cook by helping her father while growing up in their home in Uptown New Orleans. She recently retired from a 33-year career as a social worker. Before she retired, she started a website and Facebook group about cooking. In December, she published her cookbook, “Recipes My Daddy Never Wrote Down.”
Gambit: How has cooking been passed down in your family?
Sheryl Boudy: My whole life was being in the kitchen with my father, who was an excellent cook but had no formal training. As years passed by, I always knew that cooking was my passion. It was my getaway from the hustle and bustle of my job. Right before I retired, I knew I wanted to write this book, so I started a food group on Facebook to get an audience, and then I started an Instagram page. Then two years ago, I started collecting these recipes that I remembered from my childhood.
My dad learned from his mother, who was a great cook. He was one of 11. When he was a little boy, he broke something and he was in a cast from the waist down, so he couldn’t go to school. He stayed home for three or four months. My grandma had him in the kitchen, helping her cook. That’s where he learned to cook.
In my household, my daddy cooked; my mother didn’t. She was a school teacher and he was an insurance agent. He had a more flexible schedule, plus he was a much better cook.
He cooked my whole life, and I was right there. And he wouldn’t talk much. He was a whistler. I’d be in the kitchen trying to watch. Over time, the recipes were engraved in my brain. So when I became a mother, I started replicating his recipes, because this is what I grew up on. Sometimes it was hit or miss, because nothing was written down. I asked him why he didn’t write anything down and he was like, “Oh, chere, just add a little bit of this or that. Look at the texture. You can smell it.” He took us to Schwegmann’s. He showed us how to shop. What to get, how to check prices. The whole gamut.
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Gambit: How has your online presence helped?
Boudy: I did the website in 2015. I was on Facebook in 2009, but I didn’t start my Sheryl in the Kitchen group until 2015. The website is where I get the most traffic, where I put recipes for things like crawfish pies, which has like a million views. But with people on the Sheryl in the Kitchen (group), I have more interaction with them. I would post pictures of my food, videos. If I went to Westwego to get seafood, I would post things about shrimp, or shrimp season, or tips on how to buy shrimp, tips on how to cook certain things.
I have 6,100 followers. I do slo-mos, I do Boomerangs, I do click-its.
I have three sons. My youngest son, Alden, is into cooking. He started posting food on TikTok, maybe three weeks ago. He’s up to 77,000 followers. He came over because I needed a picture of my crawfish pies. He did a TikTok on my crawfish pies. It got 237,000 views. Overnight, I got orders for 55 books off that TikTok.
Gambit: What did you include in the book?
Boudy: There are 25 recipes. I call them authentic New Orleans recipes. When I talk about these things, people who grew up in New Orleans recognize them, like, “Oh my God, my grandmother made that too.”
There are things that are familiar, like crawfish pies. And I came up with a new one, although it’s not one of my dad’s. It’s crawfish rolls. He would want me to make that. It’s like an egg roll, but it’s rich. It’s crawfish and a cheesy sauce with seasonings. It’s deep fried twice, and you batter it twice, so it becomes crispy.
I also cook marinated crabs, crawfish etouffee, crawfish bisque, smothered pork chops, chicken and red gravy, smothered cabbage — a lot of New Orleans kinds of foods.
There are 15 recipes with seafood in the book. And of course, we have to come up with something sweet, so my brother, who is the baker, came up with five recipes. The bread pudding with rum sauce, praline Bundt cake, German chocolate cake and pecan tarts.
Before each recipe, I tell a brief story of why I picked the recipe, so when people go to do my recipes, it’s like they know my dad, they know my family.
The vision of Sheryl in the Kitchen is to inspire people to cook. I am trying to inspire people to get in the kitchen with their family and have these conversations with their families, so one day, when your grandmother and grandfather are gone, you’ll have those memories. That’s what’s so important to me. We do gather around food, but it’s not about the food. That’s what my mother and my dad said: “It’s not about the food. It’s about the memories.”
For more information about Sheryl Boudy and the cookbook, visit sherylboudy.com.
The new business is set up like a carefully curated gourmet market, with a busy counter for breakfast, lunch and dinner dishes.