Tony Chachere’s major gift to the University of Mississippi will fund the creation of three film documentaries over the next three years by the Southern Foodways Alliance (SFA).
Based out of Opelousas, Louisiana, the family-run corporation’s $90,000 gift will allow the SFA to produce and direct short documentaries focused on hero cooks who serve their communities.
“Food is a cultural product, comparable in reach and import to music as a marker of people and place,” said John T Edge, the director of the SFA.
“Tony Chachere’s generous support ensures that we can fulfill our mission to document, study and explore this place we call home. The company’s belief in our work inspires us.”
Tony Chachere’s Creole Foods began in 1972 as a retirement hobby for south Louisiana native Tony Chachere and produces signature Creole seasonings, marinades, dinner mixes, roux and gravy mixes, and more. Chachere published “Cajun Country Cookbook,” fulfilling a lifelong dream to record the recipes of his beloved south Louisiana.
“His fishing and hunting camp on Bayou Big Alabama, in the Atchafalaya Swamp near Opelousas, was legendary as a gourmet haven where his culinary talents delighted palates from all over the United States, Mexico and Canada,” according to the company’s history.
When Chachere headed to his kitchen, his trademark shout “Tonight, I’m gonna make ’em cry!” promised culinary delicacies. Chachere was honored in 1995 as the inaugural inductee into the Louisiana Chefs Hall of Fame, and he passed away shortly after receiving the honor and just months before his 90th birthday.
“We love everything SFA stands for, so this partnership is just a natural fit for us,” said Celeste Chachere, his great-granddaughter and Tony Chachere’s director of marketing. “Tony Chachere’s rich history is indelibly stamped on the company, just as that history stamps the hearts of Louisianans.
“Without its unique place in the cultural history of Louisiana, Tony Chachere’s would be just another brand. Instead, it is so much more, embodying the spirit of the people of Louisiana and our joyful way of life. Mr. Tony’s family wants to make sure those stories are never forgotten.”
The SFA is a member-supported organization based at the university’s Center for the Study of Southern Culture, where it collects oral histories, produces films and podcasts, publishes great writing, sponsors scholarship, mentors students and stages events that serve as progressive and inclusive catalysts for the greater South.
Claire Moss, associate director of development, said the SFA relies on private gifts to fund its work.
“We are grateful for Tony Chachere’s generosity, which will allow the SFA to honor these cooks through film. Together we aim to inspire communities to invest in their culinary cultures and share their stories.”
More information about the SFA, including its extensive oral history archive, project index and interactive map, can be found online at https://www.southernfoodways.org/.
Individuals and organizations interested in supporting the SFA can mail a check to the University of Mississippi Foundation, with the fund’s name noted on the memo line, to 406 University Ave., Oxford, MS 38655 or by giving online at https://give.olemiss.edu.
For more information on supporting the SFA, contact Claire Moss at firstname.lastname@example.org or 662-915-3086.
By Mary Stanton Knight