June 29, 2022

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Colorado Springs chef places Cajun food stuff on culinary map | Lifestyle

Robert and Becky Brunet are the homeowners and operators of Momma Pearl’s Cajun Kitchen, an award-winning cafe on the city’s much north side. He is the chef and Becky runs the front of the home. Named after Robert’s mother, Pearl Theriot, the restaurant delivers what couple others in Colorado Springs do: Cajun specialties like po’boys, etouffée, jambalaya, frog legs and “a aspect of serious alligator.”

The eatery was born from the couple’s worries of staying evacuated from their house in Louisiana after hurricane Katrina, as nicely as vocation changes, and has survived the tribulations of the pandemic.

“If everyday living is not an experience, what’s the stage?” Robert asks.

And his existence has been comprehensive of adventures (read through: problems). Robert is the 10th of 13 small children, born in 1959 in Houma, La. Houma is about an hour’s generate from New Orleans and sits alongside the renowned Cajun Bayou Food items Trail, a assortment of favored nearby institutions situated in the state’s Lafourche and Terrebonne parishes.

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Soon following he was born, his family members moved to the New Orleans spot, the place he confronted his 1st of several hurdles.

“When I started to start with quality, I was classified by the faculty program as retarded and positioned into distinctive education and learning,” Robert claimed. “Remember, that was in the ’60s. These days I would be classified as possessing a learning disability. I listened to a whole lot of, ‘You just cannot do this or that,’ for the reason that I was much too modest, also brief. I wasn’t picked to be on groups, so I didn’t get to perform football or other sports activities.”

He usually challenged himself to show naysayers mistaken.

“I’m very pleased of my achievements,” he mentioned. “I was the to start with child in my family to go to higher education and get a degree in laptop or computer science.”

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Right after graduating from college or university in 1984, he commenced a incredibly prosperous career in the computer technologies marketplace in New Orleans. In 1996, his operate took him to an celebration in New Mexico, in which he fulfilled Rebecca (“Becky”) Beale.

“In the mid ’90s, I experienced a job programming for a organization that did Mardi Gras-style parties in New Orleans and about the place,” he stated. “That was my initial publicity to the hospitality sector. We had been staging a significant celebration for a corporation’s conference in Albuquerque (New Mexico). Becky was the event supervisor at the hotel in Albuquerque in which all the generation staff and musical expertise would be being.”

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Soon after the shindig, he returned to New Orleans. The pair carried on a very long-distance marriage, which led to marriage. Becky afterwards secured a place at the JW Marriott in downtown New Orleans and relocated there with her two little ones to be with Robert.

When Katrina strike in 2005, Robert, Becky and their loved ones ended up in the city when it started to flood. They packed everything they could and begun driving.

“We traveled all the way to Fort Really worth, Texas, just before we could obtain a resort that had room for us,” Robert stated.

Becky had lived in Colorado Springs prior to, and whilst they ended up evacuated, she commenced carrying out some career lookups.

“She attained out to The Broadmoor and was able to get a occupation as a special events coordinator,” Robert explained. “Nine months later, I bought a position with a company that experienced a contract with Air Pressure satellite management community. We purchased a property, and anything was likely excellent.”

Points started to slide aside in 2010 when Becky was laid off from The Broadmoor, and four months later Robert shed his work.

“We went from a six-determine revenue to fewer than $30,000 a year,” Robert reported. “I experienced just turned 50 and … I wished to do some thing that when I bought up in the morning, I wanted to go do it. Something I could be passionate about.”

He started pondering about creating a living performing a little something he’d carried out expanding up: cooking.

“We all cooked, with my mother doing the job all the time to enable assist the spouse and children,” he claimed. “In Louisiana, cooking is genetic. Cooking was one thing I could also develop a company all-around.”

He began by producing and offering roast beef po’boys and gumbo at farmers marketplaces about Colorado Springs.

“I tried out to provide gumbo at 7 o’clock in the morning,” he stated. “They didn’t sell quite nicely since most of the marketplaces ended up early in the early morning, and individuals have been not hungry for hefty dishes. I commenced making Cajun-seasoned breakfast burritos, and they bought like ridiculous.”

He later commenced an in-property chef enterprise known as The Home Chef of Colorado Springs, where he ready Cajun dinners for people at their homes, due to the fact he didn’t have a professional kitchen. At its high position, he had 9 cooks operating for him, serving around 35 dinners a 7 days.

“In 2013, one particular of the chefs informed me about a compact restaurant in the Rockrimmon area that was for lease,” he said. “That turned our to start with spot for Momma Pearl’s Cajun Kitchen.”

They stayed there extra than 7 a long time.

“The to start with calendar year, we manufactured $150,000 in earnings with our six tables,” he stated. “We barely saved afloat. By 2019 we built $660,000 in the identical spot. We had been averaging a 27% expansion yr in excess of 12 months there. I understood we ended up blessed with a pretty powerful pursuing.”

In the meantime, Becky experienced ongoing functioning in accommodations and other enterprises as an celebration coordinator.

“She pretty much held us from starving to death throughout the initial couple yrs of running the cafe,” Brunet mentioned.

In 2015, Becky brought her expertise with entrance-of-the-dwelling management and shopper assistance to Momma Pearl’s.

“She jumped in and produced this spot work,” Robert explained.

In 2020, the pair took a major leap of religion and moved the restaurant to its current place off Northgate Street in the Polaris Pointe Buying Center. It is vastly greater, with a comprehensive bar. Of class, we all know what happened that year. The pandemic put the brakes on the eatery, and enterprise slowed down as they pivoted to takeout. But the Brunets have persevered.

For the duration of the shutdown on dine-in assistance, Robert, like several other cooks and restaurant homeowners, offered assist to each other. He created numerous podcast movies to boost to-go expert services at independent dining places in the Springs. Later he introduced the “Feed It Forward” Fb site, to persuade eateries to donate their unused unexpected emergency food things to nearby food banking companies.

He bought a split in early 2021, when Robert Irvine’s Food items Network actuality show “Restaurant Impossible” arrived calling. The premise of the series is that inside of two days and on a resources budget of $10,000, Irvine renovates a cafe with the target of aiding to restore it to profitability and prominence. He assesses its complications and then produces a program for new decor, oversees the refurbishment, calculates rewarding meals expenditures, adjusts the menu, resolves conflicts and/or trains the staff members.

“It was a uncooked and genuine, truthful expertise,” Becky claimed.

Robert said, “I was very pleased of Becky for the honesty she shared with the producers of the clearly show.”

The restaurant acquired a fresh new, upscale search. The menu has essentially the same Cajun delights that have kept Momma Pearl’s doors open up all these a long time. Irvine did create a couple of new dishes, which are proving to be group-pleasers, this sort of as Cajun meatloaf patti melt and catfish cioppino.

“This restaurant is our lifetime,” Robert claimed. “We do not have 401(k)s or personal savings left — we experienced to stay on people for a extended time. Now, the cafe is our upcoming. A information I constantly convey to my kids is, ‘You only fall short if you stop,’ and I’m not quitting.”

get hold of the author: 636-0271.