Nicholls culinary professor Chef Nathan Richard taught his Advanced Garde Manger class how to cook using alligator during a class on Tuesday, March 20. Advanced Garde Manger is an in-depth look at the principles of cold and smoked meats, utilizing cuts of meat from products and animals that are native to South Louisiana, such as alligator.
Chef Richard is the executive chef of Cavan in New Orleans and an adjunct professor for the Chef John Folse Culinary Institute. Richard has previously served as the executive chef at Kingfish in New Orleans. Chef Richard took some time to answer a few questions about cooking with alligator.
Q: What are some common misconceptions people have about cooking and eating alligator?
Chef Nathan Richard: One, it doesn’t always have to be fried. And you don’t always have to use the tail of the alligator.
Q: What do you think causes some people to avoid eating alligator?
CNR: Sometimes it’s getting past it being a lizard, or a reptile or wild game. Sometimes it’s a little too gamey for people and unapproachable, but nowadays people have become much more adventurous eaters, thanks to people like Anthony Bourdain, who have showcased eating unique foods.
Q: What do you think makes alligator special as far as food?
CNR: It doesn’t get any more local than what we have coming out of the bayou in local waterways out of Thibodaux. I think it’s something very unique to our area and it’s one of my favorite things to cook.
Q: Why do you think it is important that this tradition continues?
CNR: It’s something that is close to our culture. They have been hunting alligator since the 1950s. It has been used a lot and it’s one of those things that you can use all of the alligator, including the tail, feet, skin, ribs and more.
Q: How does this training benefit Nicholls students?
CNR: It gives them a new approach to cooking and using the alligator. You can use the whole animal, you can make keychains, backscratchers, etc. Not stuff we do in class, obviously, but it is good for the students to know how to not waste it. You don’t just use the tail. We use the ribs, tenderloins and more.
Q: What are some tips and tricks to cooking with alligator?
CNR: Low and slow. Tenderize it. It’s a very muscular animal and it’s very tough, therefore you have to tenderize it if you are going to fry it and if you are going to braise it, make sure it goes for quite a while. •