Archive for April, 2013

Morning Rush

Louie’s cook and neighborhood hero Frenchie Cox on 25 delicious years

BY VANESSA C. DEGGINS

Ask any former or current LSU student about Louie’s on State Street and they’ll tell you about their favorite omelet or style of hash browns.

But along with their favorite dish, they may also have a story about Frenchie Cox, the daytime line cook.

FRENCHIE-R,M

No matter how busy he is, Frenchie somehow manages to greet everyone entering the diner.

If you’re a regular, he will greet you by name, with a joke or an inquiry about work, family, or other tidbits you shared with him in the past.

“The regulars are like family. They’ve been coming here for so long, and now then they bring their family,” Cox said. “I like the close contact because the place is so small.” Standing along the flat top, Cox regularly carries on conversations with nearby tables without raising his voice.

Cox was born in Marksville, La. and raised in Mansura. After graduating from Mansura high school, he thought he would follow his father into law enforcement.

“But then I discovered girls,” Cox said. While he was a student at LSU Alexandria, the Vietnam War started. Cox was drafted and served in the Air Force.

He doesn’t really talk about his time in the service.

“It was just a job I did. I think more people should focus on the ones who didn’t come back,” Cox said. “For me, that’s in the past. That was 40-something years ago.”

After the Air Force, Cox said he traveled around the country, working many odd jobs before settling in Baton Rouge in 1987 to do what came naturally to him – cooking.

“I don’t remember, after getting out of the service, doing anything else. There was one thing I was good at and that was cooking,” Cox said. “What I think I was trying to do was like when an athlete retires – you’re still trying to get that adrenaline rush. And late night Louie’s during the inebriation hour, that’s pretty intense. You got a bunch of testosterone run amok, fueled by alcohol and some false bravado.”

Now he says every morning is a challenge.

“You don’t know who’s going to come in, how busy it’s going to be,” Cox said with a smile, continuing to move along the line.

“I’ve been described as Baton Rouge’s oldest fry cook, but I like to say ‘most experienced fry cook.’”

Regular diners have fond memories of their time with Frenchie.

WRKF host Jim Engster has breakfast at Louie’s almost every morning before his talk show. He has had Frenchie on the show three times and describes him as a remarkable guy.

“He’s talked about his mama, his military service, and being from the same town as Edwin Edwards,” Engster said. He also called Frenchie a hero, which the cook took issue with.

“He just has me on when he needs a rating boost,” Cox said.

Frenchie turns 60 on April 12. He will mark his 25th year at Louie’s the following month, and said he plans to cook as long as he is alive.

“I don’t have any retirement plans. I plan to keel over here in the midst of a Sunday rush and a seafood omelet.”

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April 10, 2013 at 7:09 pm Leave a comment

If You Cook It

Nooley’s comes to Game Day Daiquiris, offering food just like you remember

BY VANESSA C. DEGGINS

The Nooley special. Photos by Brei Olivier

The Nooley special. Photos by Brei Olivier

Jacob Couvillion is bringing his family tradition to Baton Rouge.

Last year, he and his wife Charmin opened Nooley’s Restaurant in Prairieville, rekindling a business his father Johnny ran until 1999.

Jacob Couvillion, Charmin Couvillion and Johnny Couvillion.

Jacob Couvillion, Charmin Couvillion and Johnny Couvillion.

About two weeks ago, Couvillion partnered with business associate Charles McClaren to open Nooley’s at Game Day Daiquiris, which is just off College Drive. From 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Game Day offers most of the Nooley’s menu and operates as a sit down restaurant and daiquiri shop.

“We had been open as a daiquiri shop for about three years, and when I decided to sell food I really didn’t want to have the generic bar menu, so I sought out someone with quality food and name recognition,” McClaren said.

“About eight months ago, he approached me with the idea to bring the menu here, but I wasn’t really ready to move forward since me and Charmin had just opened the restaurant,” Couvillion added.

Once they got the Prairieville location going, Couvillion said he was ready to move forward with a Baton Rouge location.

“My wife still pretty much runs the Prairieville store and I’m here [in Baton Rouge] in the afternoons,” Couvillion said.

He had missed the restaurant business.

“I was 21 when my dad got out of the restaurant business, and I just missed it. I’d see people and they would tell me they missed the food. It was always in the back of my head,” Couvillion said.

For almost two months, he said he noticed a vacancy in a small shopping center near his house on Highway 44.

“It was a wing shop that had shut down and I would always wonder what was the deal with it,” Couvillion said. He continued by comparing his next experience to that of Kevin Costner’s character in Field of Dreams.

The morning after LSU lost the BCS Championship to Alabama was his turning point.

“I was mad and something made me stop and see what was going on with the property. My curiosity got the best of me,” Couvillion said. “The landlord had a construction company next door and came out and talked to me. He said the previous tenant had just left, didn’t take any equipment or anything.”

He said his mind was racing as he left the property.

“The first person I called was my dad and I told him everything, then my wife and some friends who may have some startup money.”

“I thought he was crazy at first,” said Johnny Couvillion. “But after we started fixing up the location, I felt like he could do it.”

That was January 10 of last year. The Prairieville location opened on April 28.

“It was a crazy opening because people still remembered the name. We are doing good, which I worried about because we aren’t on the main drag in Prairieville,” Jacob Couvillion said.

Couvillion said he is no longer in a rush to expand. Right now, he is focused on consistency.

“We are always asking people how it compared to the old Nooley’s and how was the food,” Jacob said. “We’re going for ‘it’s just how I remember it.’”

Nooley’s at Game Day is located at 4619 Bennington Dr.

April 10, 2013 at 7:02 pm Leave a comment