Frying up tradition at Cafe Du Monde

Updated: Jul. 20, 2022 at 9:50 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - From Australia to Colombia, people from all over the world are drawn, to not only the music and the smell of freshly powdered beignets, but also to the hospitality.

At this iconic spot on Decatur, the original Cafe Du Monde in the French Market has been a staple for 160 years.

The “often imitated but never duplicated” beignets, coffee with chicory and the people inside the shop, who work day in and day out, are a big part of what makes it unlike any other place in the world.

Cooking up beignets is not as easy as it looks. Will Joseph, who has worked here for 20 years, just makes it look that way.

When Will walked into Cafe Du Monde in his 20s, he did not realize he would stay around for two decades, and he is not the only one.

“I just like doing it. I’m here every day, five in the morning, setting things up,” said Joseph.

Kim Richard Huffman is the second longest-serving employee. Her journey started right after the Vietnam War. When Kim got to New Orleans in the 1970s, she said she did not speak English, but Cafe Du Monde gave her a chance.

“I am grateful for the Cafe Du Monde family because they gave me a job, and I am here today because of them,” said Huffman.

She has served presidents and movie stars but really enjoys bringing out beignets to people like you and me.

“I don’t care what color or kin you are,” said Huffman. “Everyone has a heart.”

Then, there are long-time employees like Day Manager Kenny Swafford and Nguyet Trinh, who mans the register. They have worked here for a combined 80 years.

“I lived in Tennessee. So, I came down here. My brother worked here, and he introduced me to Jay,” explained Swafford. “He called me up when he needed somebody, and I’ve been here ever since.”

“The longevity I hope, is because we’ve been intertwined with the city of New Orleans,” said President of Cafe Du Monde Jay Roman.

Roman said the company currently employs 300 people at its 10 locations and warehouse. Out of those 300 employees, 60 have worked for the company for more than 10 years.

“We have many, many families that work with us here. We have numerous cases, where we have parents, their kids came to work during their school years, and we have grandkids in some cases that come working for us,” explained Roman. “We’ve always been a family environment that translates to others as well.”

Whether they’re whipping up Cafe Au Lait’s like Kim or frying beignets like Will, these employees said what keeps Cafe Du Monde a go-to destination are the people who dedicate themselves to keeping this 160-year tradition alive and consider themselves family.

“I love them. I love them like they’re my own,” concluded Huffman.

Even a couple of members of our Fox 8 family worked for Cafe Du Monde. Veteran Reporter Rob Masson worked there for two years on and off as a teenager. Director George Gant worked at a couple of different locations back in the 1990s.

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