A taste of history in Nova Scotia
How a Cajun chef rediscovered his culinary roots on a trip to Canada
Former “Top Chef” fan favorite and owner of two New Orleans, La. restaurants, chef Isaac Toups’ Cajun roots run deep: His family has lived in South Louisiana for more than 300 years. But despite a strong connection to his local history, he grew up knowing little about his ancestors before they settled in the Gulf Coast.
After writing a cookbook about his Cajun influences, Chasing the Gator, Isaac felt inspired to dig deeper into his past. He decided to travel 2,000 miles to Nova Scotia, Canada—home to early French settlers known as Acadians, thousands of whom were exiled in the 18th century and resettled in Louisiana. There, new surroundings shaped a similar but distinct cuisine and culture, and “Acadian“ became “Cajun.”
While in Nova Scotia, Isaac met up with Alain Bossé, a local chef and author of The Acadian Kitchen. Together, they explored Nova Scotia’s historic landmarks and rich culinary scene—culminating in an evening in Alain’s kitchen cooking “fricot,” a traditional Acadian stew. The experience opened Isaac’s eyes to a new side of his heritage, and he returned home with a newfound commitment to honor his ancestors by bringing their traditions to his diners today.