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Oral Histories

The SFA oral history program documents life stories from the American South. Collecting these stories, we honor the people whose labor defines the region. If you would like to contribute to SFA’s oral history collections, please send your ideas for oral history along with your CV or Resume and a portfolio of prior oral history work to

< Back to Oral History project: Southern Gumbo Trail


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 since 2001. 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.

Date of interview:

Sara Roahen

Sara Roahen

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The Southern Foodways Alliance drives a more progressive future by leading conversations that challenge existing constructs, shape perspectives, and foster meaningful discussions. We reconsider the past with research, scrutiny, and documentation.


Alex Raij Txikito

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