“(In Texas) we called them crawdads.... I actually lived and worked in this restaurant for a year before I ate a crawfish...now I eat them all the time. I love them.” Peggy Voorhies, Co-owner
Visitors to Acadiana are sometimes apprehensive about eating crawfish for the first time. It’s understandable. Peggy Voorhies wasn’t too sure about the prickly little critters either at first. She was raised to think of “crawdads” as something raccoons fished out of the ditches. Then she married into a Lafayette restaurant family and moved from Texas to Acadiana; crawfish were just part of her culture shock. Now, seventeen years later, Peggy owns Gator Cove Restaurant along with her husband Jay, and she proudly enjoys all the local cuisine here—especially crawfish. But she likes them seasoned just right.
Located behind the family’s other restaurant, AB Henderson’s Bar-B-Que, Gator Cove has perfected the process of commercial crawfish boiling. Wriggling like little lobsters in their net sacks, the live crawfish are first thoroughly washed. Next, they are boiled in big vats. Then comes the seasoning. As any crawfish aficionado will tell you, the seasoning is everything, and Gator Cove manages the process very carefully. Immediately after they’re removed from the boiling water, the crawfish are dumped into a sealable compartment, sprinkled with a measured amount of spices, hand-tossed, and left to steam in the flavor before being shuttled out and served up—now perfectly seasoned.
Peggy Voorhies explains that Gator Cove has its own special blend of seasonings, sunset-colored and aromatic. Whether backyard boilers or commercial operations like Gator Cove, most crawfish seasoning blends are kept as closely guarded secrets. But one look at the thick industrial gloves worn by Gator Cove’s kitchen staff, and you get a pretty good idea of just how much cayenne pepper is in the mix.
By far, Gator Cove is at its busiest during Lent. More than 600 pounds of boiled crawfish are served up nightly during the six-week period leading up to Easter. Sometimes, newcomers can find it a bit discouraging to try wrestling a little meat from the tough shell of their first crawfish, especially when they see the locals around them picking their way through pound after pound. But with a little instruction, a little practice, and a little persistence and you’ll get your fill. After all, it took Peggy a while to fully appreciate crawfish too.