We’re asking local chefs about their holiday food traditions, starting with New Orleans native Matthew Lewis, owner of Where Ya At Matt food truck.
When it comes to food in New Orleans, you’ve got go big or go home. And since they were all already at home for the holiday, the Lewis family opted for the former.
Every Christmas Eve they would hunch over a mammoth 50-gallon pot of gumbo in their backyard. (Think Macbeth’s prophetic witches gathered around a bubbling concoction…but replace the witches with Matthew’s grandparents and other various family members, and replace the magical potion with an aromatic southern stew. Though come to think of it, good gumbo is a magical potion.)
As far as who deserves the title of Master Gumbo Maker, there’s some discrepancy in the family. “My grandfather claims he made it,” Matthew recalls, “but my grandmother cut and portioned the ingredients. All my grandpa did was stir.”
Though Matthew eventually left his southern home for Seattle, he refused to abandon his favorite long-time Creole tradition. He still cooks large quantities of gumbo at Christmastime, an undertaking made infinitely easier by the use of a commercial kitchen. He’s even enlisted the help of his three-year-old son Brady, who contributes to the meal by banging on pots and stirring huge vats of gumbo with a wooden spoon half his height. As Matthew’s grandfather would no doubt insist, the little guy has the most important job of all.