Text: Jason Derouen
Becoming a popular online cook was never a goal in my life. Don’t get me wrong; I’ve always loved to eat, but when I was a kid growing up in Houma, I was much more interested in martial arts and making people laugh than I was in mastering a roux.
My mom was a registered nurse and worked a lot of night shifts, but when she cooked, you made sure you were there. My dad wasn’t much of a cook. He was more into martial arts movies and football games, but he did have an enormous love for cooking shows. He would watch Emeril Lagasse almost every night, and occasionally, I ’d sit there and watch with him, taking in every “bam!” along the way. I guess that was where I first discovered the entertainment side of food.
“WE’RE OFTEN DRAWN TO DISHES AND METHODS THAT REMIND US OF HOW OUR FAMILIES COOKED, SO IT’S ONLY NATURAL THAT WE’RE OPINIONATED.”
I was in my early 20s when I first tried my hand at cooking, and I didn’t even know the basics. At the time, I was a lead singer in a local cover band and had no intentions of a cooking career. But our lives are full of surprises. I started researching my favorite recipes on the internet, and early on, I’d call my mom to get her feedback. Being the good Cajun mom she is, she’d usually just offer to make it herself and bring it over. But through years of trial and error, cooking became easier for me. Soon, I was making gumbo, jambalaya, and étouffée. It wasn’t so much the cooking that I loved; it was entertaining others. I eventually started a Facebook page where I’d post random, entertaining things but never anything cooking-related.
In the fall of 2016, some cool weather came through, and I decided to cook a gumbo. I had a wild hair to record the process and upload the video to the Facebook page. Little did I know, this video would change my life forever. In it, I threw the trinity into the pot while yelling, “Pi-YAHHHHH!!” I should mention that, because of my father, martial arts is deeply engrained in me.
I’m a fourth-degree black belt in tae kwon do and run a school called Houma Martial Arts. I also take jujitsu lessons. Yelling something like “Pi-YAHHHHH!!” was nothing out of the ordinary for me. I had about 400 followers then and many of those were my friends and family.
Within a couple days of the gumbo video going live, it had more than 1 million views. The comments and messages were also overwhelming because—I can assure you—the feedback wasn’t all positive! Cajuns have strong opinions about gumbo. The negativity got to me and I almost deleted the page, but I realized cooking is an interpretation of your own preferences. We’re drawn to dishes and methods that remind us of how our families cooked, so it’s only natural that we’re opinionated.
The week After the video went viral, I continued posting cooking videos. In my second video, I did my first chopping of the onion with my hands. After a loud “Pi-YAHHHHH,” I said, “Don’t mess with the Cajun ninja!” Soon, people began calling me that, and I officially became known as the Cajun Ninja. As more people tried my recipes, the love and support grew. The page now has more than 1 million followers.
At the heart of all this is family. I’m not The Cajun Ninja without being a dad and a husband. I couldn’t do this without my family, especially my wife, Misty, who is the backbone of all this. She has even adopted the name “Mrs. Cajun Ninja” on social media.
When my seasoning, The Cajun Ninja PI-YAHHHHH!! Seasoning Blend, first came about, I chose the number of h’s in PI-YAHHHHH to represent each person in my home— my wife, my three daughters, and myself. I’m also immensely thankful for the followers of the page. Without their support, The Cajun Ninja would only be a blank page.
To pay homage to some early Cajun Ninja videos and my upbringing, here is my crawfish Étouffée and Smothered Pork Chops. I hope you will make these in your own home and enjoy a great meal with your families. And no matter what anyone tells you, when it comes to cooking, “You Deux You.”