Heart of Louisiana: The Gardens of Chef John Folse

Heart of Louisiana: The Gardens of Chef Folse

BATON ROUGE, LA (WVUE) - One South Louisiana chef has the perfect answer for anyone who wants to know the meaning of Creole food. It’s a history lesson that credits seven different nations for the rich flavors of South Louisiana cooking.

The White Oak Plantation near Baton Rouge is not one of Louisiana’s historic plantation homes, but what’s taking place on the sprawling 25-acre grounds is making history.

“Oh my God the garlic, the garlic flavor just pops in your nose,” said chef John Folse.

Folse has spent a lifetime cooking and researching Louisiana cuisine, especially Creole cooking.

“The English tea garden is a garden that represents the English cultures that arrived in Baton Rouge,” Folse said.

In the gardens behind White Oak, you can see the vegetables and the herbs that are the basis for the rich flavors of Creole foods.

“When we talk about the Creoles, we talk about the Native Americans, the French, the Spanish, the Germans, the Africans, the Italians, and I'm sorry to English who arrived here in 1775,” Folse said.

Folse says the marriages of those immigrants and the blending of their foods hasn’t happened on such a scale anywhere else in the world.

“When two different cultures intermarry, they intermarried everything about their cultures and that created a new person and a new style of cooking and a new thought process - a new language here in Louisiana,” Folse said.

In these expanding gardens, Folse is telling the story of those seven nations.

“The garlic chives, now these are the wild ones, so these are Native American,” he said.

From the earliest Louisianans to the Europeans.

“These represent the Italian culture, the Sicilians. This one is the best tomato sauce tomato in the world, the San Marzano,” Folse said. “And then I have the Spanish tomato from Spain. These are the heart of the bulls.”

The gardens include what Folse calls his grits mills – both the old-fashioned kind and a modern mill that can grind four tons of corn a day. And the newest addition…

“This was brown sugar and yeast seven days ago,” said Folse.

A distillery for rum and bourbon. And at an age that most of us would be retired, Chef Folse has the energy and enthusiasm of someone half his age and the passion to go with it.

“You do it because you have a limited amount of time to make a really big splash on this earth, and then you're gone,” Folse said. “My splash is about preserving the rich history of those seven nations and bringing it to life through these gardens.”

It’s a story that is beautifully and tastefully told when you stroll through the grounds of this plantation.

White Oak Plantation near Baton Rouge hosts weddings and corporate events, but Chef Folse also wants adults, children and school groups to experience the history of Ccreole in his gardens.

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