Colorado Springs chef puts Cajun foods on culinary map | Life style

Robert and Becky Brunet are the proprietors and operators of Momma Pearl’s Cajun Kitchen, an award-profitable cafe on the city’s far north aspect. He is the chef and Becky operates the entrance of the household. Named immediately after Robert’s mother, Pearl Theriot, the cafe features what number of other folks in Colorado Springs do: Cajun specialties like po’boys, etouffée, jambalaya, frog legs and “a side of real alligator.”

The eatery was born from the couple’s issues of getting evacuated from their household in Louisiana following hurricane Katrina, as properly as vocation alterations, and has survived the tribulations of the pandemic.

“If daily life isn’t an journey, what is the stage?” Robert asks.

And his daily life has been whole of adventures (study: troubles). Robert is the 10th of 13 young children, born in 1959 in Houma, La. Houma is about an hour’s push from New Orleans and sits together the famous Cajun Bayou Meals Trail, a selection of beloved nearby institutions found in the state’s Lafourche and Terrebonne parishes.


Shortly soon after he was born, his household moved to the New Orleans space, where by he confronted his to start with of many hurdles.

“When I begun 1st grade, I was labeled by the college system as retarded and put into distinctive instruction,” Robert mentioned. “Remember, that was in the ’60s. Right now I would be classified as acquiring a understanding disability. I listened to a whole lot of, ‘You can not do this or that,’ mainly because I was way too modest, as well limited. I was not picked to be on groups, so I didn’t get to participate in football or other athletics.”

He generally challenged himself to establish naysayers mistaken.

“I’m very pleased of my accomplishments,” he claimed. “I was the to start with boy or girl in my family members to go to college or university and get a degree in computer system science.”

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Soon after graduating from school in 1984, he started a very successful job in the laptop or computer technology marketplace in New Orleans. In 1996, his work took him to an party in New Mexico, exactly where he fulfilled Rebecca (“Becky”) Beale.

“In the mid ’90s, I had a work programming for a enterprise that did Mardi Gras-fashion functions in New Orleans and all-around the place,” he reported. “That was my to start with publicity to the hospitality marketplace. We have been staging a large get together for a corporation’s convention in Albuquerque (New Mexico). Becky was the occasion manager at the hotel in Albuquerque where all the output group and musical talent would be being.”

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Immediately after the shindig, he returned to New Orleans. The few carried on a lengthy-distance connection, which led to relationship. Becky later on secured a position at the JW Marriott in downtown New Orleans and relocated there with her two little ones to be with Robert.

When Katrina hit in 2005, Robert, Becky and their relatives have been in the metropolis when it commenced to flood. They packed everything they could and begun driving.

“We traveled all the way to Fort Value, Texas, before we could uncover a resort that experienced space for us,” Robert said.

Becky experienced lived in Colorado Springs before, and while they have been evacuated, she started off undertaking some job lookups.

“She reached out to The Broadmoor and was in a position to get a career as a exclusive events coordinator,” Robert reported. “Nine months afterwards, I obtained a work with a company that had a agreement with Air Force satellite handle network. We purchased a residence, and almost everything was likely good.”

Issues started out to slide apart in 2010 when Becky was laid off from The Broadmoor, and 4 months later Robert misplaced his task.

“We went from a 6-determine profits to much less than $30,000 a year,” Robert mentioned. “I experienced just turned 50 and … I preferred to do one thing that when I obtained up in the early morning, I needed to go do it. Anything I could be passionate about.”

He begun imagining about generating a living undertaking anything he’d completed growing up: cooking.

“We all cooked, with my mother doing the job all the time to assist help the loved ones,” he reported. “In Louisiana, cooking is genetic. Cooking was a thing I could also develop a business enterprise all over.”

He began by building and advertising roast beef po’boys and gumbo at farmers marketplaces around Colorado Springs.

“I tried using to market gumbo at 7 o’clock in the early morning,” he reported. “They did not provide very very well considering that most of the marketplaces had been early in the early morning, and folks were not hungry for major dishes. I began building Cajun-seasoned breakfast burritos, and they marketed like ridiculous.”

He later started off an in-household chef organization termed The Property Chef of Colorado Springs, wherever he well prepared Cajun dinners for people today at their properties, considering that he didn’t have a industrial kitchen area. At its high point, he had nine cooks performing for him, serving about 35 dinners a 7 days.

“In 2013, 1 of the cooks informed me about a compact cafe in the Rockrimmon region that was for lease,” he reported. “That grew to become our 1st site for Momma Pearl’s Cajun Kitchen.”

They stayed there much more than 7 years.

“The to start with 12 months, we built $150,000 in profits with our 6 tables,” he explained. “We scarcely held afloat. By 2019 we designed $660,000 in the similar place. We were averaging a 27% advancement yr over year there. I understood we were blessed with a quite strong next.”

Meanwhile, Becky had ongoing doing the job in accommodations and other companies as an party coordinator.

“She literally retained us from starving to demise for the duration of the very first handful of decades of jogging the restaurant,” Brunet stated.

In 2015, Becky brought her practical experience with front-of-the-household management and buyer provider to Momma Pearl’s.

“She jumped in and manufactured this put operate,” Robert said.

In 2020, the few took a huge leap of religion and moved the cafe to its present locale off Northgate Road in the Polaris Pointe Shopping Centre. It is vastly bigger, with a whole bar. Of training course, we all know what transpired that year. The pandemic put the brakes on the eatery, and business enterprise slowed down as they pivoted to takeout. But the Brunets have persevered.

Through the shutdown on dine-in services, Robert, like lots of other chefs and restaurant homeowners, made available assist to each individual other. He manufactured numerous podcast videos to endorse to-go companies at impartial places to eat in the Springs. Later he released the “Feed It Forward” Fb website page, to motivate eateries to donate their unused crisis food goods to community food stuff banking companies.

He acquired a crack in early 2021, when Robert Irvine’s Foodstuff Network actuality clearly show “Restaurant Impossible” arrived calling. The premise of the series is that within two times and on a products spending plan of $10,000, Irvine renovates a cafe with the goal of encouraging to restore it to profitability and prominence. He assesses its troubles and then produces a approach for new decor, oversees the refurbishment, calculates lucrative food items charges, adjusts the menu, resolves conflicts and/or trains the personnel.

“It was a raw and real, truthful encounter,” Becky mentioned.

Robert explained, “I was happy of Becky for the honesty she shared with the producers of the show.”

The cafe bought a refreshing, upscale appear. The menu has fundamentally the similar Cajun delights that have held Momma Pearl’s doorways open up all these many years. Irvine did build a number of new dishes, which are proving to be crowd-pleasers, these as Cajun meatloaf patti soften and catfish cioppino.

“This cafe is our existence,” Robert mentioned. “We do not have 401(k)s or personal savings still left — we experienced to are living on people for a very long time. Now, the cafe is our future. A information I constantly inform my kids is, ‘You only are unsuccessful if you give up,’ and I’m not quitting.”

make contact with the author: 636-0271.