David Papania and Scott Landry
The seafood gumbo at Seafood Palace begins with an awe-inspiring, nearly black roux that gives amateur roux-makers something to live for. How one gets a roux so dark without burning it is a matter of practice, of dedication to consistency, and of regional expression. David Papania, who grew up in a family of Italian restaurant owners, has been running the Seafood Palace for six years. Scott Landry, David’s childhood friend and a culinary entertainer by trade, eats there at least once a week, and on some weeks as often as every day. The pair agree on some gumbo principles (a roux is paramount, no tomatoes, rice served on the side), but not on others (David sometimes likes to sprinkle filé on his, whereas Scott dislikes the stringy nature and flavor that filé can impart to a gumbo). For both men, gumbo was integral to moving forward following Hurricane Rita, which devastated the Lake Charles area. David was one of the first restaurateurs to reopen, and he did so with one menu item: chicken and sausage gumbo. During the rare moments when Scott wasn’t cooking meals for Red Cross distribution, he was at the Seafood Palace, recovering with his neighbors, and with gumbo.