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Alzina Toups’ paternal ancestors came to Louisiana from Nova Scotia, as did so many Cajuns. Her mother’s family—“great, great cooks”—was Portuguese, though both of Alzina’s parents primarily spoke French at home. Alzina still peppers her conversation with French words and phrases. A woman whose faith infiltrates all areas of her life, Alzina treated us to a French prayer-song during this interview (play the slideshow to hear it).
She describes her late father as a workaholic shrimper—an occupation she also undertook as a young married woman. On a pittance of a salary, her father saved enough money to purchase the land that she and her family still live on in Galliano, just steps from Bayou Lafourche. It’s on that land that Alzina, in her eighties at the time of this interview, carries on her father’s strong work ethic by operating Alzina’s Restaurant in a former welding shop.
Alzina’s offers a one-of-a-kind dining experience. In the chef’s own words, it’s more of “get-together place” than a traditional restaurant. She entertains only one party per mealtime and accepts no walk-ins. Once you reserve the space, and her cooking talents, they are yours for the duration of one relaxing, home-cooked, serve-yourself meal. While she’s currently renowned for specialties such as crabmeat lasagna (she boils and picks her own crabs) and fig tart, Alzina has a vast repertoire that spans two cookbooks and numerous composition notebooks stacked in the corner of her kitchen.