I first met Will Drury at the corner of a bar in the middle of a parking lot on the edge of an island in the middle of the Caribbean. The bar was Duffy's, an institution in Red Hook on the east end of St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Will had arrived that day to take over management of Duffy's and I was a regular there. Duffy's was right down the hill from my apartment and I didn't even have to cross the street to get there. I liked Duffy's because the clientele was a good balance of locals and tourists. While most people who lived on the island tried their hardest to avoid the tourists during their down-time, I loved interacting with them. It was great to welcome them to our little island and help them with their plans, and I never tired of their enthusiasm.
Will and I became friends pretty quickly that afternoon over a few drinks and a few laughs. He was from Louisiana, a place I know and love and spent two years of my life in. He had managed Fat Harry's for a while, a classic New Orleans institution right on St. Charles Avenue in the heart of the city. We had lived right up the block from each other in the French Quarter for a while, and frequented many of the same bars and restaurants, although he was usually arriving long after I had called it a night. Will had given up a lucrative career with one of the country's biggest banking institutions to run a few bars and get back to enjoying life. He had traded in his suits for shorts and T-shirts and a change in perspective. Yes, Will and I were definitely going to be friends.
Fast forward a half dozen years, and Will and I were hanging out again, this time at the corner of a bar in Athens, Ohio. Will had moved here to be closer to his family and at some point decided to build and run a food trailer called The Cajun Clucker. This would allow him to be mobile, take some time off in the cold winters to travel, and introduce small-town Ohioans to down-home Cajun cooking. While Will doesn't claim Cajun blood, you certainly wouldn't know it by his cooking. One taste of his gumbo or jambalaya will have you shouting "Who Dat?" in no time.
A college town is a great place for a lot of reasons. One of them is that college students are more likely to try new things and push out of their comfort zones, especially when it comes to something like food. That is probably why a Middle Eastern restaurant or a Thai place can thrive in a community like Athens. When people are willing to give something a try, they may just discover how much they like it. It makes me happy that, at least here in Athens, when people go and try Cajun food for the first time it will be authentic, not some bastardization found on a big chain restaurant menu.
Louisiana has one of the greatest cooking cultures in the world, but outside of the state it can be remarkably hard to find. Will has gone to great lengths to make sure he can deliver when it comes to getting it right. His po' boy sandwiches come on authentic Leidenheimer bread and his meat pies are brought in straight from Natchitoches. He takes deliveries from a bunch of different vendors so he can get it right, because in Will's mind it's better to get it right than get it cheap. Even if you've never heard these names, you'll have to take my word that they mean you're getting the real deal, not some half baked knock-off. I tread very lightly when it comes to eating regional cuisine outside of that region, but I can promise you that The Cajun Clucker in Athens, Ohio is turning out real Cajun and New Orleans food right there in the middle of Appalachia. Will wouldn't have it any other way.
Will and the Cajun Clucker are finishing up a residency at Little Fish Brewing Company and will be mobile again in just a few weeks. Check out their ever-changing menu and find out where they'll be serving that good Louisiana cooking on their Facebook page HERE.