Kenny and I found out we lost another friend to cancer this past week.

Armand was an incredible person and a brilliant chef--he got his start at Commander's under Paul Prudhomme, then moved on to become head chef at Gautreau's, before moving to the MS Gulf Coast in the 1990s to open his own place. His food was as amazing as he was.

When Kenny and I started dating in 1994, he worked for Armand, and everyone there became a second family to us. Once business started winding down on Friday and Saturday nights, that's where you'd find me--hanging at the bar with Armand while everyone else wrapped up service. It was right around that time that chefs became celebrities, and he absolutely hated that part. I would sit at the bar and stifle my laughter while watching people come up to fawn over him--to meet THE CHEF. He was terrible at that role--he just wanted to do what he loved. Most nights, I would be stationed behind the bar, tasked with getting him a fresh Heineken when his current one ran out. Just as often as not, he would defer customers to me and then be highly entertained while I tried to seriously pretend like I was addressing a complaint, even though I didn't work there. Once the last customer was gone, the party would start and we'd all stay there till way past when we should've gone to bed.

He was a mentor to Kenny, as well as a best friend. He played relationship counselor to us more than once and always did a damn good job of it. When my brother died, he was one of the few who sat and talked with me about it with love, when so may other people weren't able to do so because of the way he died.

He threw the best damn 4th of July parties on the coast, complete with semi-professional fireworks. If you went on July 4th, there was a good chance you'd get burned by falling cinders from those fireworks, but it was worth it.

Everyone who worked for him was family, including Unc, his 80-year-old maitre d'--Armand bought the house behind his for Unc, and they shared the big backyard.

He had phenomenal gardening skills and loved to take you out back to show you his latest crop of snap beans, eggplants, tomatoes, and peppers--always peppers--the hotter the better. He laughed till he cried the first time he got me to try a habanero.

He was one of the most knowledgeable people I've ever met--he'd happily spend hours talking to you about Hannibal or the fall of the Roman Empire. He loved playing with words on his menu; he had a Titanic salad (an iceberg wedge) and a Cassius salad (like a Caesar, but done in the back).

He drove 600 miles to surprise me and Kenny at our wedding.

He was a father, a husband, and a friend. He was our friend.

You will be missed, Armand. May the light perpetual shine upon you.

No comments: