“Cooking is fight or flight; you need it to live in this world!”
Chef Toya Boudy is a woman who has always done things her own way. She first started cooking at the age of 9, simply because she and her friend were hungry. No one told her she couldn’t, so she did. It’s this spirit that has allowed Boudy to launch herself to success through her private chef services, private cooking classes, her own interactive cookbook, her successful YouTube channel, “Cooking with Toya Boudy” and star in shows that showcase her cuisine along with her fun personality. Yes, Boudy truly is a “chef-of-all-trades.”
Learning to cook to being on TV
Boudy has come a long way from that 9-year-old cutting up a potato and making French fries in her parents’ kitchen. Through her parents’ encouragement and art and culture influence, she attended Nunez Community College Culinary Arts program and studied under Chef Ruth Varisco, whom Boudy considers one of her greatest influences.
“[She] always pushed for me to REALLY spread my wings and to be unapologetic,” she said of Varisco.
Boudy graduated from Nunez College with her Associates of Applied Science in Food Service Production and Management.
After college, Boudy went on to launch a successful personal chef business. Cooking for new clients or large groups can always be a challenge, but she finds that people come to her with one type of food in mind.
“Honestly, every last one of my clients comes to me for a New Orleanians’ experience, so I give them just that,” she explains. “Before I started getting on television, I would get different types of clients and I would love to push the limit with them, but now my clientele comes from out of town and they want to feel as if they ate real non-commercialized food.”
“His warmth and being personal with us was wowing to me,” she said. “The culture of his set was the first example that I saw and said to myself, ‘I want my set for my show to be this warm and I want the production team to actually love their jobs and to be treated well.’ I want people to want to work with me just because of the environment of growth that happens.”
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Teaching others in the kitchen
Boudy is not only a chef, but she has dedicated herself to educating others when it comes to food and food preparation. Boudy’s cookbook, “Cook Like a New Orleanian” is not only available as a hardcopy, but is interactive as well, employing video clips, enhanced images and pop-ups to give the reader a more in-depth cooking experience. She says that coming up with the idea for an interactive cookbook was simple- she was inspired by media that she already uses to spread the word about her cooking.
“My YouTube channel, ‘Cooking with Toya Boudy,’ I just wanted to blend the world to make it easier for everyone,” she said. “I wanted them to have answers to all of the questions they had and I wanted to simply give them help when they need it during the recipe.”
If anyone is front and center when it comes to spreading the gospel of New Orleans food and cooking, it’s Boudy. Through her private cooking classes, she teaches people first-hand how to create some of their favorite New Orleans dishes. Chef loves teaching and she believes that anyone can learn to cook and she isn’t afraid to tackle the “hard” stuff.
“Cooking is fight or flight; you need it to live in this world!” she said. “The problem isn’t knowing how to cook; it’s the insecurities that we’ve gotten from others, passed down beliefs of capabilities, or maybe just the person not being able to see themselves doing it right- but, it’s there. Anyone can learn with a teacher; just because you can cook doesn’t mean that you can teach someone. Most people encounter cooks that can’t or don’t want to really teach what they know, so the result is them left feeling like, ‘Oh well, it’s not for me’. I start students off in the deep end: gumbo.”
Balancing her daily work duties with being a wife and mother means not cutting any corners when it comes to preparing meals for her family. Of course, I had to know what will be on the Boudy family Thanksgiving table this year: “Applewood bacon mac & cheese, buttermilk turkey, and seafood gumbo,” she said. “Every year my husband says if I have those things I don’t have to do anything else. I still make other sides just in case.”
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A family surrounded by food
As far as food traditions go, chef can’t wait to pass them down to her children, whom she says already have their mother’s culinary tastes.
“Every last one of the classics they will know like the back of their hand,” she said. “All of my children are artists and can identify flavors by taste. A tradition I want them to pass down to their children is our monthly ‘sisters dinner.’ It started from my sisters and I sitting at our parents’ house and I was looking at them and I thought, ‘I just want to do something nice for them. Maybe they can come over and I’ll cook.’ Then it turned into being a monthly dinner and we all look forward to it! One brings wine, one brings a dessert, I provide the entree. Of course, they would call it a siblings’ dinner, because we have two boys and two girls.”
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Naturally, Boudy finds her joy in catering to her husband, and cooking for Father’s Day is one of her favorite things to do.
“I really love to cater to my husband,” she said. “I love to fix him exactly what he wants to eat — it’s a real joy for me.”
With all of Boudy’s success, it’s easy to wonder what she might want her legacy to be. Her answer is surprising and humble.
“I don’t believe that my legacy will be centered around me being a chef,” she explains. “I know that my legacy will be centered around my giving and uplifting of others. How everyone around me is compelled once they get in my presence to pursue, investigate, or live out their purpose. People are my first love; I believe food is the vehicle that’s carrying me to the heights that I’m going to reach.”
Of course, Boudy has to realize that her accomplishments have inspired other women to step into the world of cooking. When asked if she has any advice for these women she said, “Find your specific place. There’s a place specifically for you that no one can feel. There is no competition because only you can be you- competition is an illusion. Trust me; what’s for you is for you and no one can take it away but you. If you have the need to use the word competition, in that case, you are your own competition. No one can dethrone you but you. Get what’s yours … no apologies.”
Boudy is the featured chef at Very Local New Orleans’ 2019 Friendsgiving Dinner Party. The event features a 3-course meal curated and prepared by Boudy, as well as unlimited cocktails from 73 Distilling. Click here for more information and tickets.