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Chef Paul Prudhomme Dies

NEW ORLEANS (CelebrityAccess) — Paul Prudhomme, the Louisiana chef who helped bring Creole and Cajun cuisine to a national audience, died on Tuesday after a brief, undisclosed illness. He was 75.

Prudhomme opened his first restaurant, a hamburger place called Big Daddy O's Patio near his native Opelousas at the age of 17 but he hit his stride when he went to work at the famous Commander's Palace restaurant in New Orleans in 1975.

In 1979, Prudhomme and Kay Hinrichs, his future wife, opened K-Paul's Louisiana Kitchen in the French Quarter and soon began attracting attention for their cuisine, including New York Times food critic Craig Claiborne.

"I think that Paul Prudhomme has had the greatest influence on American cooking, in cultivating the public interest in American food, of anybody I know," Claiborne, said in a 1988 interview. ""He created this great interest in Cajun and Creole cooking. People said, 'There must be more to Southern cooking,' and he opened up the floodgates to the whole field of Southern cooking."

Prudhomme also launched a highly successful series of cook books and videos that helped to pave the way for the current explosion of celebrity chefs and foodie book culture. His first book "Chef Paul Prudhomme's Louisiana Kitchen" sold more than a half a million copies after its publication in 1984.

Prudhomme is survived by his second wife, Lori Prudhome. Kay died in 1993. – Staff Writers