Lessons for leftovers: Author, restaurant pro to demonstrate how to bring new life to old meals

Published 11:37 am Tuesday, May 14, 2024

Susanne Duplantis, a 20-year veteran of the restaurant and catering business, began working through her breakthrough idea on a typical day while watching boxes of leftovers and food scraps go into the trash at the Baton Rouge restaurant she managed.

“Fifty-five percent of all restaurant leftovers go to waste,” Duplantis said. “Nowadays, especially with the price of food in a restaurant, how much money does that translate to?” 

More pressing to her, though, was the thought that one-in-eight households she passed on her way home, statistically speaking, experience food insecurity. 

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“It messed with my mind knowing all this food was getting thrown out, and then we know we have people hungry,” she said.

Duplantis began scribbling quick recipes on customers’ takeout boxes at the restaurant, such as instructions for making potato pancakes with leftover French fries. When she noticed more people were actually bringing their leftovers home instead of leaving them on the table, she realized most people don’t really want to waste food — they just need a little guidance on what to do with it.

That moment led her to begin sharing those recipes and more with a wider audience by creating the blog “Makeover My Leftovers,” which turned into the cookbook “Lagniappe Leftovers.”

Saturday at 10 a.m. Catfish Row Museum will kick off its second Summer Chef Series in the museum’s teaching kitchen with a demonstration by Duplantis and Ali Hopson of Nutrition Matters. The event is in partnership with the Vicksburg Farmers’ Market, which will host its first event of the season a block away.

With all the fresh veggies at the nearby market in mind, Duplantis will demonstrate how to make maque choux, a sweet corn-based dish with origins in Cajun and Native American cultures that often includes onions, peppers and cream. But this version comes with an extra twist.

“I tell them how to use everything, so when we use the corn, I’m going to use the cob to make a stock,” she said. “Also, I’m going to make a stock from the husk and the silk. So many people throw out the husk and the silk, but it makes a beautiful stock.”

Hopson, a registered dietician and co-owner of Nutrition Matters, LLC, will lend her expertise with other vegetables and fruits to guide attendees to healthy meal options.

“A lot of the things we throw away are nutritious foods like fruits and vegetables,” Hopson said. “We plan to be there to answer any nutrition-related questions, and also to give people some simple solutions to reuse their fruits and vegetables.”

Over the course of the cooking demonstration, Duplantis — who has appeared on the Food Network shows “Guy’s Grocery Games” with Guy Fieri and “Big Bad Budget Battle” with “Pioneer Woman” Ree Drummond — will also share tips on making use of what most households would consider cast-off parts of vegetables.

“I’m going to tell you what to do with that onion skin and what to do with the jalapeno pepper seeds or your bell pepper seeds,” Duplantis said. “They’re great for flavoring olive oil. You have places that sell these really expensive, flavored olive oils, and something that you would normally throw away can be used in your own kitchen” to spice up those ordinary condiments and cooking oils.

In addition, Hopson and Kim Hopkins, director of Downtown Vicksburg Main Street and the farmers market, will give away prizes for the event. Additionally, Lorelei Books will have a book signing at the museum where attendees can purchase Duplantis’ book.

Besides her experience in the restaurant business, Duplantis says her other inspiration for her blog and book was her grandmother.

“She would always have something growing on her window sill from something she cut from the garden, or drying seeds to replant,” she said. “I really learned the value of food from her, and also how to have fun. When you enjoy it, you have an appreciation for everybody involved from the seed growing into the ground to the grocery store.”

– Jim Beaugez, 3 Chord Mediaworks, LLC