Chef Jimmy Stinson Shares Recipes For Celebrating Mardi Gras

Chef Jimmy Stinson has had a passion for cooking for over 35 years. He is currently the executive chef at the Bottling Plant Event Center and his own business, J & S Catering. The chef is sharing a variety of Creole and Cajun recipes for creating a Mardi Gras dinner or party. Photo Contributed To The Observer

By Ann Cipperly

After working decades in the restaurant business, Chef Jimmy Stinson has found Creole and Cajun cuisines to be his favorite style of cooking along with classic southern dishes. While the chef will be preparing New Orleans’ style dishes for local Mardi Gras parties, he is sharing a variety of recipes for creating a dinner or party at home to celebrate Mardi Gras, which is on March 1 this year.

Stinson is the former owner of The Creole & Seafood Shack in Auburn. After the business closed, he worked at Stinky’s Fish Camp for a couple of years before becoming the executive chef at the Bottling Plant Event Center in 2019. He also has his own business, J & S Catering.

“I cook with love and have had a passion for cooking for more than 35 years,” Stinson said. “I try to get better and better with every dish I make.”

The chef not only enjoys cooking for work but also for his wife Ernestine and their combined six children, 14 grandchildren and five great-grandkids.

The chef remembers the first meal he cooked when he was only ten years old. His mother was sick, and she would tell him every step in making the meal. While he was in high school, he cooked for an older lady who was blind. She taught him a great deal about cooking southern dishes and seafood, such as baked sole with lemon sauce.

While Jimmy thought of the many careers he would like to have, he attended Auburn University, majoring in zoology. He began working in food service while attending classes.

“After two years,” he said, “I felt cooking was calling my name.”

He worked at fast-food restaurants, including Krystal in Auburn and then at Mister J’s. Steak House. His knowledge of cooking expanded when Executive Chef Nelson Porter hired him at The Hotel at Auburn University and Dixon Conference Center. He worked there for four years.

Stinson then became the chef at Stillwaters’ Restaurant and later worked at a restaurant in Tuskegee and the Embassy Suites in Montgomery with Executive Chef Klaus Bertram. He felt his career advanced when Executive Chef Christine Healey asked him to return to the AU Hotel, and he worked there for four years again.

At that point, he decided to open his own restaurant, The Seafood & Creole Shack, where he served Creole and Cajun dishes, such as gumbo, seafood etouffee and others. Stinson and Ernestine visited New Orleans often, talked to chefs there and collected recipes.

When he returned home, the chef experimented with recipes and studied cookbooks. He created his own spice mix and sometimes will blend Creole and Cajun recipes for custom flavors.

After becoming executive chef at the Bottling Plant Event Center, COVID hit, and it was a difficult time. Things are beginning to pick up now.

“Jimmy and I met years ago back in 2001 when I first moved here,” said Lisa Ditchkoff, owner of the Bottling Plant Event Center. “Later, after he opened his restaurant, The Creole & Seafood Shack, I used to wait in line for an hour or longer just to get in to have a meal. It was so delicious.

“We kept in touch over the years. In 2019, he was laid off from his last work gig when the restaurant abruptly closed. I immediately met with him, hiring him on the spot. We’ve been through a lot together, especially with COVID shutting us down and a slow start back. I appreciate his loyalty, and his faith inspires me.”

When cooking Creole and Cajun dishes for events, Chef Stinson can adjust the seasoning in order for the dish to be less spicy. He will also have a shaker with seasonings for those who prefer dishes hot and spicy.

Traditionally, Creole cuisine has tomatoes, while most Cajun dishes don’t and are often referred to as country food. Creole food is a blend of various cultures in New Orleans and can have creamy sauces as well.

The tradition of Mardi Gras goes back to medieval France and began in America as a French Catholic tradition. Mardi Gras is French for “Fat Tuesday,” which is the last night of dining on rich foods before the season of Lent begins on Ash Wednesday. Lent begins 47 days before Easter. This year, Mardi Gras will be held March 1.

Mobile is credited with holding America’s first Mardi Gras celebration in 1703. By the 1730s, the event was celebrated annually with parties and festivals in New Orleans.

Mardi Gras season begins on the Twelfth Night of Christmas, Jan. 6, also known as Epiphany. This is believed to be when the three wise men visited the Christ Child. Tradition says the Mardi Gras colors were selected from the jewels in the crowns of the wise men.

These colors of purple for justice, green for faith and gold for power abound during Mardi Gras season in decorated trees, wreaths and other décor for a festive, celebratory look. These colors are also used on a king cake.

The tradition of the king cake was brought from France to New Orleans. It can be similar to a coffee cake or pastry topped with icing or sugar and decorated with the Mardi Gras colors. Some cakes are filled with cream cheese or laced with cinnamon.

Instead of a king cake, Stinson is sharing recipes for a Creole Cake and a Cajun Cake. The Creole Cake is similar to a German chocolate cake, while the Cajun confection is embellished with pineapple, coconut and pecans.

If you are interested in hosting a Mardi Gras dinner or party this year, check out Stinson’s recipes for creating a scrumptious menu for your guests. He suggests using Paul Prudhomme’s spice mix, as it is closest to his own spice mix. Note in the Creole Base that the “trinity” he uses in the recipes is a combination of chopped onions, bell peppers and celery. Chef Stinson said that he gives God all the credit for his talent in cooking. If you have questions for the chef, you can contact him at 334-703-0212.

You don’t have to make a trip to New Orleans or Mobile to enjoy a festive parade. The Krewe de Tigris local organization will be having its fifth-annual Mardi Gras Parade Saturday, Feb. 26 at 3 p.m. in downtown Auburn.

Creole Base

1 cup trinity (chopped onions, bell peppers, celery)           

14-16 oz. can diced tomatoes

14-16 oz. can tomato sauce

3-4 oz. can tomato paste

1 cup water

4 Tbsp. spice mix (Paul Prudhomme’s spice mix)

Salt and pepper to taste

1 Tbsp. minced jalapeno (optional)

In a saucepan sauté trinity for 2-3 minutes: add tomatoes, sauce, tomato paste, and spice mix. Add 1 cup of water. Cook until vegetables are soft. Stir often; make sure the bottom of pan is not sticking. Season with salt and pepper.

Note: You can add cooked chicken or shrimp to this for a delicious Creole dish, and/or use it for creating other dishes in the following recipes.

Blackened Pork Chops

1 pack pork chops, 4 count that are ½ inch thick

1 tsp. spice mix (Paul Prudhomme’s spice mix)

¼ cup oil, divided


Season pork chops with spice mix, add half oil and sprinkle seasoning like you were using salt and pepper. Do not overpower with spice mix.

Use a cast iron skillet. Heat to medium to medium high temperature. Add remaining oil. Place chops in hot skillet. Turn occasionally. Keep from burning. Once brown, lower heat and finish cooking until tender.

Serve with rice, potatoes or any of your favorites.


1 lb. crawfish tail (with fat attached is the best)

¼ lb. butter

½ cup flour

1 cup trinity (combination of chopped onions, bell peppers and celery)

½ cup canned diced tomatoes

1 cup water

2 Tbsp. spice mix (Paul Prudhomme’s spice mix)

1 cup milk or ½ cup cream

Salt to taste

In a saucepot, melt butter; add trinity mix and cook until tender. Add flour and whisk to make your roux. Watch your temperature and do not burn roux.

Add tomatoes and 1 cup of water or more if needed. Add spice mix. Season with salt to taste. Once seasoned, add crawfish and milk and let simmer until flavor is infused.

Creole Snapper

1 lb. snapper, cut into 4 serving

1 Tbsp. spice mix or to taste (Paul Prudhomme’s spice mix)

1 tsp. salt

1 cup Creole Base


Season snapper with spice mix and salt. Blacken fish in skillet until fish begins to flake. Add creole base and simmer. Serve on a bed of rice.

Creole Cake


2 cups sugar

½ cup cocoa

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. baking soda

½ cup buttermilk

2 eggs

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1 Tbsp. vanilla

1 cup boiling water


1 ½ cups packed brown sugar

2/3 cup evaporated milk

¼ cup melted margarine

¾ cup chopped pecans

1 cup flake coconut

1 tsp. vanilla

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

To make cake, mix sugar, cocoa, flour, salt and baking soda until blended. Add 2 eggs, milk, oil and vanilla. Mix well. Slowly add boiling water while mixing on low speed in a mixer. Mixture will be thin.

Pour into a greased and floured 9 x 13 inch pan. Bake 30-35 minutes or until test done.

For frosting, combine sugar, milk, margarine and vanilla in a saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring constantly until thicken. Remove from heat and add pecans and coconut. Spread frosting on top of cake and quickly brown under broiler. (Do not put glass pan under broiler.)

Creole Shrimp

1 lb. 26/30 or 31/40 shrimp

1 cup Creole Base

1 tsp. spice mix (Paul Prudhomme’s spice mix)

1 cup onion and green bell peppers, medium diced

Season shrimp with salt and spice mix. Sauté in heated skillet until shrimp begin to turn pink. Add Creole Base and ½ cup water. Simmer for 3 to 4 minutes.

Cajun Cake Cake:

3 cups all-purpose flour

1½ cups sugar

¼ tsp. salt

2 tsp. baking soda

2 eggs

1 (20 oz.) can crushed pineapple with juice


½ cup (1 stick) margarine

¾ cup sugar

¾ cup evaporated milk

1 tsp. vanilla

1 cup flaked coconut

1 cup pecans

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease and flour a 9 x 13 inch pan.

In a large bowl, sift flour, 1½ cups sugar, salt and baking soda. Add eggs, pineapple and juice. Mix at low speed until well blended.

Pour into a greased and floured 9 by 13 inch pan and bake 30 to 35 minutes or until test done.


While the cake is baking, combine margarine, sugar, milk and vanilla in a saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring constantly until thicken. Remove from heat and add pecans and coconut. Cool slightly. Then pour on cake while it is hot.

Cajun Meatballs

2 cups Creole Base

1 Tbsp. spice mix or taste (Paul Prudhomme’s spice mix)

1 cup water

1 lb. cooked meatballs (homemade or frozen)

In saucepot, add Creole Base, spice mix and 1 cup of water. Add meatballs. Stir and simmer until hot.

Cajun Wings

1 lb. cut wings or whole wings

2 Tbsp. spice mix (Paul Prudhomme’s spice mix)

¼ cup oil

1 Tbsp. salt

Mix all ingredients and place on sheet pan. Bake in at 350 degrees approximately 25 to 30 minutes. Serve with spicy Ranch (recipe follows).

Spicy Ranch Dressing

2 cups ranch dressing

1 Tbsp. spice mix (Paul Prudhomme’s spice mix)

Mix well. Let sit for 30 minutes. Add more spice mix if needed.


2 Idaho potatoes

Mix equal parts of seasoned salt and spice mix (Paul Prudhomme’s spice mix)

Spicy Ranch Dressing

Slice potatoes using a mandolin. Slice thin and deep fry. Season to taste with the salt and spice mix combination. Serve with Spicy Ranch Dressing.

Red Beans and Rice

Ham hock


1 bay leaf

1 cup trinity (mix of chopped onions, bell peppers and celery)

2 Tbsp. spice mix or to taste (Paul Prudhomme’s spice mix)

Salt to taste

1 lb. red beans

In a pot, add ham hock (with enough water to cover ham hock). Add bay leaf, trinity, spice mix, salt and beans. Simmer beans until tender (cooking time could be 3 hour or longer). Remove bay leaf before serving. Serve with cooked rice.

Note: Beans may be soaked overnight for less cooking time.

Gator Piquant

1 lb. gator

Flour for dusting

½ cup oil

1 cup trinity (mix of chopped onions, bell peppers and celery)

¼ cup flour

1 Tbsp. spice mix (Paul Prudhomme’s spice mix)

1 ½ cups water

Cut gator into cutlets and tenderize with a mallet. Dust each piece with flour, then fry in oil in a large skillet.

Once brown, remove from the oil, set to the side; add trinity, flour and spice mix to oil to make a roux. Cook to light brown. Add water. Additional water may be added, if needed to avoid thickness. Season with salt. Once gravy is complete, add gator and simmer until tender.


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