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Cajun House tops local seafood restaurants

Spot an important part of St. Albert's restaurant history
2710 RC cajun house CC 2243 2
Gordon Gidora is the owner and executive chef at The Cajun House voted as the 2021 Readers' Choice as Favourite Seafood Restaurant. SUPPLIED

If you’ve been craving seafood, check out The Cajun House. As part of the St. Albert Gazette Readers’ Choice competition, 408 diners chose this New Orlean’s-themed establishment as their favourite seafood restaurant. 

“It’s always nice to be chosen, to be included in the equation. I’m glad people thought of us, and being a New Orleans restaurant, that’s what we do,” said executive chef and owner Gordon Gidora. 

An important part of St. Albert’s restaurant history, The Cajun House first opened its doors in 1991 with Gidora as the inaugural chef. One of the city’s most enduring and popular restaurants, it has defied the rigors of time and the pandemic. Despite the hardships currently faced by the hospitality industry, the restaurant is a testament to its authentic dishes, striking ambiance, and dedicated staff. 

Gidora first developed his passion for Creole and Cajun specialties at the age of 19 when he visited New Orleans during Mardi Gras. It was pre–Hurricane Katrina and the world-class bash was heightened by limitless alcohol, lip-smacking southern cooking, and soulful jazz and blues. 

Envisioning an alternative to fast-food outlets and steak houses, the Red Seal chef started cooking for diners looking for something new and exciting. Today, some of his most popular dishes are seafood jambalaya, red snapper etouffee (red snapper in cream sauce topped with shrimp), and shrimp Creole (pan-fried prawns sprinkled with Creole spice and served with Creole tomato sauce). 

One authentic Cajun dish no longer on the appetizer menu is Louisiana alligator boudin, a homemade sausage from imported American alligator meat. The U.S. and Wildlife Service, along with several other American agencies, have controlled the meat export of this threatened wildlife species.  

“It’s the same with crawfish. You can’t get it,” Gidora said. “And there’s a product shortage of freshwater catfish. They don’t have the people to process the product and they can’t ship it out.” 

Despite the slight drop in marine variety, the creative chef continues offering West Coast snapper, Chinook salmon, halibut, mussels, and oysters to name a few. As the pandemic lingers, prices are rising and profits dropping. 

Prior to COVID, Gidora paid $7.50 per pound of shrimp. Currently the price ranges from $9.44 to $10.50 per pound. Crab has also jumped from $13 to $17 while halibut rose from $12 per pound to $15.50. 

“But I haven’t raised my prices in over two years. I’m trying to be fair. I’m trying to be competitive. I’d rather be open and busy than charging too much and losing business.” 

Some restaurants have cut portions to make ends meet. 

“I haven’t cut portions. I babysit the business so much more just to keep it going. I’ve been here 30 years, so I must be doing something right.” 

During the first COVID lockdown, the restaurant took a 70-per-cent hit to the business, and it has been a struggle to get back to a semblance of normality. But it hasn’t been all doom and gloom. 

“We had to figure out how to do delivery and high-volume takeout — on Mother's [Day] and Father’s Day we had 200 pickups in three hours.” 

Currently, Gidora is keeping the restaurant above water. 

“I like the work and I like the food. It’s nice to own your own business. It’s nice when people say, ‘Best meal in a long time.’ I still like coming to work. The hours are too much, but I still like puttering around the kitchen.”