Kevin Carloss, founder of the Montana-based franchise Café Zydeco, says gumbo can be either thick or thin — but for him, gumbo is best when its rendered rich and dark with a good roux, which he sees as an essential component of Louisiana-style food.
“It ain't the same without roux,” Carloss told the Montana Standard by phone from the franchise’s Bozeman location.
Carloss opened the first Café Zydeco in Bozeman in the early 2000s and later opened locations throughout Montana. He eventually sold those locations but retained ownership of the Bozeman restaurant, turning Café Zydeco into a kind of franchise.
Today there are four Café Zydeco locations in Montana – and now one of them is in Butte.
Ray Pelletier, owner of the Butte restaurant, said he recently decided to move his Missoula location to the Mining City.
Pelletier opened the new location July 6 at 3703 Harrison Avenue, next to the Chances R Sports Bar and Casino in Tamarack Square.
Pelletier, a Canyon Creek resident who also owns the Café Zydeco in Helena with his wife Lou, has been working in the restaurant industry since 1974, starting as a dish washer and worked his way up to executive chef
Pelletier said he took his first taste of Café Zydeco years ago when his niece was getting married near Bozeman and he stopped by Café Zydeco between the wedding and the reception.
“I had All That Jazz and fell in love with it,” said Pelletier, referring to the restaurant’s po-boy sandwich, which features shrimp, Andouille sausage, ham, turkey and cheese, among other fixings.
Soon after, Pelletier’s wife Lou landed a job at the Bozeman eatery. He later bought Carloss’ Helena location, followed by the location in Missoula.
“It’s authentic Cajun food,” said Pelletier when asked what drew him to Café Zydeco. “It’s unique and nothing’s out of the box.”
Pelletier said most of the dishes at Café Zydeco are handmade from Carloss’ original recipes and he creates his own specials every now and then.
Some of Pelletier’s favorite dishes at the restaurant include the shrimp grits, a Cajun gyro, the New Orleans Muffelatta and virtually all of the restaurant’s sandwiches.
The restaurant also features Cajun and Creole classics like gumbo and jambalaya, among other dishes.
Carloss, meanwhile, was practically raised in the kitchen in his hometown of Abbeville, Louisiana.
He learned the art of cooking from his Cajun mother, who was tasked with feeding the family - which consisted of 17 siblings.
“I learned how to cook a lot,” said Carloss, noting he quickly became an expert on large portions.
Carloss also credits his brothers Pat Carloss, who owns restaurants in Whitefish, and Neil Carloss, who owns a catering business, also in Whitefish, with helping him get Café Zydeco off the ground.
Although Carloss has immersed himself in Louisiana–style food to the nth degree, cooking the stuff nearly every day and managing the business, he said the cuisine is still among his favorite things to eat, noting that he has gumbo for breakfast and never gets tired of it.
“It’s authentic,” he said of the Café Zydeco experience. “It’s good and it’s made right.”