Niagara Gazette — Any foodie would likely be impressed at Chef Jason LaMotte’s impressive culinary pedigree.
LaMotte has worked with famed TV chef Gordon Ramsey. He’s also worked with John Besh, who he calls the best chef in New Orleans. And he’s been the head chef at a five-star restaurant in Prague.
He’s made beautiful, intricate dishes that look almost too good to eat, but his greatest challenge may be doing hundreds of copies of a single dish in his new job as head chef of the Conference Center of Niagara Falls.
He is not daunted. He plans to change what people think about banquet foods. That means everything will be fresh, with a preference on locally grown foods.
“We have nothing in the freezer here but french fries and ice cream,” he said recently from the spotless conference center kitchen where he was demonstrating his favorite recipe, New Orleans gumbo, for a Niagara Gazette video.
“Quality of product and attention to detail are important whether you are creating one plate or 400,” he added.
LaMotte plans to create gourmet dining experiences for small crowds as well, utilizing the Castellani satellite art gallery at the conference center for “farm to table” culinary events.
Until then, he’s been impressing staff at the center with his recipe for gumbo, a favorite dish the Amherst born LaMotte learned to make in New Orleans where he was raised.
“A lot of people have had gumbo but they haven’t had real gumbo,” he said. “Everyone I’ve ever made it for has fallen in love with it … and at the end of the day that’s why I got into cooking. I love making people happy.”
While his gumbo recipe includes two whole roasted chickens and homemade stock, this recipe is an easier version which can be made with store bought chickens and chicken stock.
Jason LaMotte’s gumbo
1 pound butter
1 pound flour
2 cups chopped onion
1 cup chopped green bell peppers
2 ounces chopped celery
1 pound chopped smoked andouillesausage
2 whole chickens (deboned and skinned, with meat pulled off bone in small pieces.)
4 quarts of chicken stock
4 tablespoons chopped garlic
3 tablespoons ground sage
3 tablespoons ground thyme
3 bay leafs
6 tablespoons store- bought cajun seasonings
Stir onions into hot roux, when edges start to brown add green pepper and celery. Keep pan on high, stirring with kitchen spoon. Then add the sausage. When sausage is hot add garlic and the sage, thyme, bay leaf and cajun seasonings.
Add chicken stock to cover ingredients in pot. Stir until all ingredients are blended and simmer for about an hour and a half, stirring every 15 minutes.