Keilen Williams perches on the tailgate of his truck, leans into the traffic streaming down Claiborne Avenue and dangles a massive shrimp from a line. He wears a sharp Cabela’s fishing hat, a serious look on his face, a long knife strapped to his belt and white shrimp boots on his feet. “I started making the right presentation,” says the fourth generation fisherman, “and you see, people come over.” A scale hangs from one side of the truck and an American flag flies on the other. In the bed he has coolers full of colossal shrimp that he sells for $5 a pound.
Williams makes the shrimp on his line dance for the cars whizzing past. He learned that trick on ESPN’s Bassmaster. “Normally when you’re fishing, you pop the bait,” he says. “You dangle one and make it look alive.” Instead of bass, Williams lures customers with his bait. One guy walks away with four pounds in a black plastic bag. “I bought some from you before,” he says. “I know it’s good.”
An older lady leans against the truck and inspects the shrimp. “I’ve been here twice today, looking for you,” she says. “Well, I have to go catch them,” says Williams. He shrimps at night, delivers to restaurants in the morning and sells on Claiborne in the afternoon.
A young woman marvels at the size of the shrimp. “He’s got shrimp steroids or something,” she says. “Don’t say that,” Williams replies. “It’s baseball season.”
Aaron Burgau, the chef at Restaurant Patois, stops by to set up a delivery. He offers to hook Williams up with chefs at Galatoire’s and Clancy’s. “People from out of town are astonished at the size of these shrimp, the taste,” Williams says. That evening, chef Burgau will serve his Uptown customers plates piled with shrimp that Williams caught. “Our seafood in Louisiana,” Williams says, “is out of the water and on your plate in less than 24 hours.”
To place a large order or check if Williams will be on Claiborne Avenue at Josephine Street, call (504) 358-1444 or email email@example.com.
A Seafood, Tomato and Zydeco Salad
The springtime festival calendar has gotten so full that three festivals have to share a single weekend. June 13-15 from 11:30 a.m. to 7 p.m., the newly christened Vieux to Do brings together the Louisiana Seafood Festival, the Louisiana Cajun-Zydeco Festival and the 22-year-old Great French Market Creole Tomato Festival. The three festivals will stretch along the river from Jackson Square to the newly reopened French Market and the Old US Mint.
Chefs such as Susan Spicer of Bayona and Dominique Macquet of Dominique’s, along with students from Delgado College and the John Folse Culinary Institute, will show off their skills. More than 15 restaurants, including Surrey’s, Antoine’s and the Red Fish Grill, will be selling food. Two Grammy winners will headline the Cajun-Zydeco Festival—BeauSoleil and Terrance Simien—and Grammy nominees the Lost Bayou Ramblers and Roddie Romero and the Hub City All-Stars will also perform.
Don’t eat too much at the Vieux to Do, because there will be a reservation booth to make dinner reservations at restaurants around the city. Those not fortunate enough to live in the land of endless festivals can stop by the FedEx booth to ship some seafood or Creole tomatoes home.
Everyone has an opinion about what Jazz Fest should be: more jazz, cheaper tickets, fewer aging pop stars. We all have ideas about the relationship between the festival and Louisiana and see ways that it could better reflect that relationship.
After writing last month’s story about vendors using imported crawfish, I wondered if I was another person trying to impose my own view on Jazz Fest. I believe Louisiana crawfish tastes better, and buying local helps our culture survive. I think every restaurant and festival should use local crawfish, but I admit that it bothered me more that Jazz Fest was selling crawfish farmed from the other side of the globe instead of down the road.
After that issue came out, I found a pdf for potential food vendors on Jazz Fest’s Website. Under “Rules and Regulations,” Jazz Fest tells them: “All foods must be prepared with fresh, wholesome and natural ingredients. Festival does not allow pre-smoked or pre-cooked meats, pre-packaged mixes and/or seasonings, foreign crawfish, processed cheese-food and parboiled (converted) rice without express written consent of Food Director.”
Evidently Jazz Fest does share these values, or it did, anyway. According Matthew Goldman, the Press and Advertising Director for Jazz Fest, “The language noted has been included in the food contracts since before Katrina, when the festival was a lot more vigilant on the use of Louisiana crawfish. The management and enforcement of the rule was still very difficult to oversee prior to 2005. Post-Katrina, the landscape and the world has changed and it is not feasible to mandate the use of only Louisiana crawfish at the Festival.”
Antoine’s: 713 St. Louis St., 581-4422
Bayona: 430 Dauphine St., 525-4455
Red Fish Grill: 115 Bourbon St., 598-1200
Restaurant Patois: 6078 Laurel St., 895-9441
Surrey’s Juice Bar: 1418 Magazine St., 524-3828