SOUTH LOOP — For Robert Brasseaux, the pandemic has created the perfect opportunity to open a Cajun restaurant.
That’s because Brasseaux said he will work from a ghost kitchen in the South Loop with low overhead, and his food will fill a void in Chicago.
A ghost kitchen is a commercial kitchen set up for the preparation of delivery-only meals. It can contain kitchen space and facilities for more than one restaurant.
“That’s the beauty of it. It’s a crazy idea right now, but this is why ghost kitchens are starting to explode,” Brasseaux said.
Brasseaux’s plan is to open a to-go-only Cajun restaurant based at 2537 S. Wabash Ave. called Brasseaux’s Cajun Kitchen. Brasseaux is partnering with Pablo Suarez, who will run Pablo’s Tiki Snack Shack from the same kitchen.
Brasseaux, a 50-year-old Louisiana native who has lived in Chicago for more than 20 years, said he thinks his gumbos, étouffées and beignets will go over well because they are hard to find in the city.
“There’s Heaven On Seven, which is New Orleans-style with a French flair; Pappadeaux Seafood Kitchen in the suburbs, which is kinda the same; but nothing real,” Brasseaux said. “There’s some soul food restaurants on the South Side, but nothing where you can say, ‘This is real gumbo. This is real jambalaya.’”
Although this is Brasseaux’s first restaurant, he thinks his 25 years in the industry — including several years for A La Carte Entertainment, Sugar Factory, High Noon Saloon and Bonchon Chicago — give him a solid footing. Brasseaux started as a bartender and ended up in management, but he said he’s a chef at heart.
“I’m a chef through and through,” he said. He learned Cajun cooking from his great-uncle, who lived in rural Louisiana and who Brasseaux would visit and learn from as a child.
“I learned in the kitchen with my uncle,” Brasseaux said. “He’d have us cutting bell peppers or celery or have us crying over the table cutting onions. Learning how to make the roux sauce because gumbos and étouffée are roux-based and you have to really know how to babysit a roux because if you burn it you have to start over.”
Brasseaux said he’s tested items with friends and has come up with a menu full of Cajun favorites. The menu can be viewed online.
“I’ve been been doing tests the last few months and everyone is going crazy for it so I kinda knew I had a hit,” Brasseaux said.
He plans to open as soon as he gets his shared kitchen license from the city, which he expects within the next three weeks. After that, he’ll start looking to open a sit-down restaurant.
“We’ll see where it goes from there, and hopefully by summer we’ll open a brick-and-mortar location,” he said.
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