“I like hot. I like to use Crystal because I’ve experienced it and it’s not too salty. Some hot sauces have their own taste.
Men love spice. My Mardi Gras [sauce] is not too hot, where my women are starting to take onto it also.
We call it the Mardi Gras sauce because it has a little bit of everything. On the float, they throw the beads but they also throw teddy bears. You’re not going to get just one thing. You want the spice, you want the sweet, you want it all. If you’re human and you’re getting beads around your neck, you’re going to want the cayenne and the honey mustard and all that.
Since this is the best sauce we have, I wanted to call it something that’s real familiar with people. I experimented in the restaurant I had before this, Lucky Buck’s on the Westbank, that a friend and I opened after Katrina. That’s how I knew this would be a hit. We were selling sandwiches and red beans and all the stuff I know how to cook at home, but when I got into chicken, that became our best seller. Then we were like, ‘We’ll open a wing shop.’ It’s cheap, and your overhead is low.
Zatarain’s taught me to put the water on, do this, do that. On the package, it tells you step by step. And I was like, ‘Hold on, this is real simple. Let me start making my own. And when I eat stuff, I know what’s in it. If I don’t know what’s in it, I know what the taste is. If I found something I liked, I’d mock it and try to do the same thing. I don’t have to use somebody else’s. I can do my own.
I was going to Delgado, I went to cooking school because I wanted to enhance what I was doing. I could have trained up to be a chef, but I had my own restaurant [already] and I didn’t have time. So I switched my major to business management. Everybody in that program wanted to run their own restaurant and I already had my own.
I just found out how good a cook my mama is. The cook of the family was my auntie, until she passed away. She would do the gumbo, that’s the number-one- selling food in my family. Gumbo! So we’d be by my auntie’s all the time. Then, when she passed away, my mom took that role.
My grandmother is from Talladega, Alabama, and we’re from New Orleans. When we went there and saw her doing this and that to the animals, we were like ‘Ew, that’s gross, we don’t go after our own animals!’ I stopped eating crawfish for a while because I took the kids crawfishing and we had to take a piece of the crawfish tail and throw it back in, while it was still alive. For the family reunion, when they put the crabs in the pot, I walk off. If it’s a rat, you kill it, because that’s what we’re taught to do. Roach—kill it. But not the pig, and all the little animals we saw on Sesame Street.
One time, we went and caught this fish and brought it home and I added some seasoning and I fried it and my cousins, they was licking their fingers. ‘Brah, who put this together?’ I said, ‘Me, man.’ ‘Where you get this from?’ ‘We caught it.’ [fakes choking] That’s my family. They didn’t like the fact that I’d caught it. I waited until they finished eating, and they was licking their fingers, that’s how I knew I had something, because fish is real simple and basic. You can’t put too much on fish. When I put that fish together, I knew I had something. So I started doing red beans and fish, macaroni and fish, everything and fish, until I got this chicken idea. And chicken goes with everything. Some of my sauces, we try putting them with the pork chop, and it don’t work. I’ve got to get to that theory. But chicken, you can put it in anything.
I fry my chicken wings for nine minutes. What we do is, we drop 20 [frozen wings] and pre-fry them for about seven minutes, so you have some already ready. And when the customers come, you drop them two additional minutes. They shouldn’t be here more than four minutes waiting for their food.
Growing up in New Orleans, sometimes you don’t have a lot of food in the house, so you experiment with what you have. You take the salt and add it to the pepper; that was the first that everybody did. Then I noticed cayenne, and we put cayenne in everything. I started experimenting with different ingredients. Some were nasty, some were good, some were like winners, so we stood with the winners. When I opened my wing shop, I put about 40 flavors out and 30 of them won. We thought we were going to have between 10 and 15, but it was hard to knock certain ones off.
I learned this. If I’m putting pepper in the lemon pepper, then I’m killing the lemon pepper. I’m killing the lemon in the lemon pepper. So you don’t want to mix things that are the same. If I’m mixing fruit punch, I don’t put orange with orange, you want to add your apple, your banana, all that.”
10th Ward Buck’s Mardi Gras Sauce for Wings
2 cups honey mustard salad dressing
4 tablespoons Crystal hot sauce
2 tablespoons Weber Kick’n Chicken seasoning
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
Mix everything together. Serve.
Note: The salad dressing should be mayo-y and quite sweet in order for the recipe to come out like 10th Ward Buck’s. I used Kraft, and ended up replacing 4 ounces of the dressing with 2 ounces honey and 2 ounces mayo in order to get my sauce to taste more like his.