Chef Jeff Senegal Is Taking Over The Reins At Cypress Grill With A New Emphasis On Cajun Seafood Dishes
Chef Spotlight • By Karla Wall
Chef Jeff Senegal, the new head chef at Cypress Grill at Gray Plantation, says his focus has always been on down-home Cajun food — the food he grew up watching and helping his mother cook.
“I learned to cook by watching my mother cook, and by watching Food Network shows,” the Lafayette native says.
He also discovered that he had a desire to put his own twist on dishes prepared by others.
“You know, you eat at a restaurant, and you expect a dish to taste a certain way, and it just doesn’t meet your expectations. You say ‘It would be so much better if you added this or made it this way,’” he says.
So a career in the culinary arts seemed a good fit for Senegal, who would come to be known as “Chef Jeff.”
After high school, Senegal attended the Culinary Institute of Baton Rouge in the late ‘90s, but left in 1998 to take a job cooking on an offshore oil rig, where he developed and honed the skills necessary to cook for large groups of people.
Deciding he wanted to be home more than a career offshore would allow, Senegal took the skills he’d developed and put them to use in the area’s casinos, working as room chef at Isle of Capri for five years, then for Harrah’s Casino another five years.
That was followed by a stint at Cypress Bayou Casino in New Iberia, and then 10 years as banquet chef at L’Auberge Casino Resort.
While working at the casinos, Senegal says, he got an opportunity to work with chefs he admired and learned much from, including chef Kevin Thompson of the Isle of Capri and chef Joseph Mullins of L’Auberge.
Senegal now has the opportunity to put his own spin not only on individual dishes, but, as executive chef, on an entire menu. His goal for Cypress Grill, he says, is a new menu featuring Cajun comfort food with a focus on seafood. The menu will feature new dishes such as blackened redfish with lemon buerre blanc, fried green tomatoes, “Cajun Benedict,” tuna tataki, and chicken and waffles.
“I want the focus to be on authentic Cajun comfort food,” he says. “I want people to feel comfort when they eat here. And I want people to come back and have the food taste the same way as the last time they had it.”
Those with a sweet tooth will be glad to know that Senegal is also adding desserts to the new menu.
With a new restaurant to head up and a new menu to create, Chef Jeff is at the top of his game. Visit him and try the new menu items at Cypress Grill.
For more information about Cypress Grill and Senegal’s new menu, call Gray Plantation at 562-1663.