by Collette Diez
Chef KD’s Louisiana Legends began as Diez Seafood on July 29, 1983 after my husband Kevin, (Chef KD) purchased the property from his " Parrain" (Godfather) “Ting” and Aunt Joan Diez in Dutchtown, Louisiana. This was the grocery store and local gathering place for many of years for his Papa Pook and Grand Ma Mary. There have been many a person eat, drink and pass a good family time at this location that Papa Pook built with his bare hands even laying every concrete block for the building. After signing the purchase agreement he went out to celebrate in Baton Rouge. It is there that he met his future business partner and wife, me, Collette.
Refurbishment of the newly purchased property began the next day. This included turning the old bar, grocery store, and automotive shop into a seafood market, with the goal of becoming a full service restaurant. Little did we know that setting wedding plans for the following April 21, 1984 would be a tiny bit more stressful than we could ever imagine with this undertaking.
Starting with a seafood market and bar, the early days saw a lot of oyster shucking for on the ½ shell all you can eat specials. Always the creative type, in 1984 Kevin designed and built custom tables for the market which had holes on both ends to push boiled seafood peelings into garbage cans below; so what was more natural than to sell all you can eat boiled seafood as well. I remember many cuts from shucking so many oysters, and being sore from carrying so many oyster sacks, but the company of the regulars, and the neighborhood feeling of our new place made it worth it. Our “after hours” job consisted of converting the rest of the building into a restaurant after we closed.
In May of 1984 we had our 1st big catering job at Borden Chemical. It was a 10,000 pound crawfish boil and Kevin actually had to design a boiling rig for the event. He was a boilermaker before becoming a Chef so he used his experience, never afraid to run from a challenge! Wow, we were young and had no idea how hard the catering business could be!
Like our crazy busy seafood market and our incredibly challenging 1st big catering job, the restaurant opened with a BANG! We so busy we honestly couldn’t handle it! Things tapered off after our 1st few weeks long enough for us to catch our breath and for Kevin to figure out how to run a restaurant! Friends like Paul Prudhomme, Glenn Juban, John Folse just to mention a few helped KD learn the ropes. I remember those crazy busy shifts when he was the only one who remained calm! It actually seemed that he functioned better under pressure! Not me: I tended to PANIC! But we survived those days and learned how to run a restaurant as we ran it!
Our business was and is a family affair. In the early days Kevin's eldest two children, Tessa and Wes, used to help wash a few dishes for extra allowance money. It was commically adorable to see them stand on top empty milk crates to reach the sink. My first born, Mindy (pictured above) was just a baby in the early stages of our opening and Kevin used to hold her and while he'd cook. Later, In highschool, wes worked as a busboy and Tessa as a hostess. I remember my second born, Abigail, being in her playpen on the restuarant floor while my first born Mindy would bring hushpuppies to the tables. The problem is being 5 years old, Mindy would carry the plates of hushpuppies with her hand over the top so she wouldn’t spill them, and if one did get away she would just pick it up and put it back on the plate! you can imagine one of her first words was "huu puppy" Of course I would always get the customers another plate and found a way to bring it to them without Mindy being aware that I did; so I didn’t discourage her from learning as she went: A lifestyle of her parents before her! Tessa and Wes, Kevin’s oldest children, would stand on milk crates at the sink in the kitchen and wash dishes and both helped with restaurant and catering throughout their teens & after.
Now the kids are all grown up and remain a big part of Louisiana Legends. Abigail (Abby) has helped KD manage and run such projects as catering for BP after the oil spill where she ran one of the shifts where KD fed 24 hours a day 7 days a week and is finishing up her degree in Music at University of New Orleans, while acting/singing/composing and has also headed up the new design of our website with the family's help. Even Mindy helped write some of the site sections from Colombia (yes the country) where she is teaching English through the Harvard sponsered "World Teach" program. Our kids grew up in the business, learning the importance of hard work. This is a tradition we now continue with our grandchildren. Our eldest grandchild, Gabriel a freshman in highschool, now works helping as a busboy for crawfish boils and other major events. He is a natural hard worker with a positive and driven attitude and we couldnt be more proud! Our 9 total grandchildren are all growing up to be sweet and talented indivuals continuing the traditon of family, fun, and hard work.
Many memories, great and not so great and have come into our lives with this venture. We dedicate our business to God through Jesus Christ for all that he has done and is continues to do. We would love for you to come and share yours memories with us. Please allow us to cater your next event and let us share a taste of our tradition with you.
KD and Collette serving up his silver medal winner Crawfish in Heaven