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At the time of this interview, Richard Stewart was co-proprietor of the Gumbo Shop, a restaurant just off Jackson Square in the French Quarter that delivers on the promise of its name. He didn’t plan to enter the food business when he started business school, but an early interest in his mother’s Joy of Cooking cookbook was prophetic. And his mother herself was an inspiration—a born-and-bred New Orleanian, she cooked dinners from scratch every night.
In addition to iconic New Orleans dishes such as jambalaya and shrimp creole, the Gumbo Shop’s daily menu offers three styles of gumbo (seafood okra, chicken andouille, and a vegetarian gumbo z’herbes). Plus, the kitchen regularly turns out special gumbos and soups, including smoked duck and oyster gumbo, turkey hot sausage gumbo, and a filé gumbo with chicken and sausage.
Though Richard and his business partner sold the restaurant and a related catering operation in the fall of 2008, the Gumbo Shop continues to operate using the recipes, and the unconventional methods of executing them, that they created. That leaves Richard with more time for dreaming up his next project and promoting his literary works. In 2005, during his Hurricane Katrina evacuation, he devised a now-published series of recipe books about Crock-Pot cooking: Joe Simmer’s Creole Slow Cookin’, Joe Simmer’s Healthy Slow Cookin’, and Joe Simmer’s All American Slow Cookin’.