I’m standing under a shade tree in Central City, eating a hot sausage po boy off a wagon decked out with a big steel smoker that’s been dragged here behind a pickup truck.
My mouth is on fire.
Chef Punch, the pitboss of New Orleans Cajun Cooking doesn’t shy away when I start taking pictures of him. He recites his menu and patiently responds when I start querying him about his operation.
I’m at The Valley Of Silent Men second line at the kickoff point where the revelry begins, Fox Bar III. There are only two food vendors: Chef Punch’s New Orleans Cajun Cooking and Luke’s Famous Catering which is posted up diagonally across the street at Tapps II.
Chef Hyman Sotello came about his nickname Punch the way lots of men do. It was put on him by relatives when he was a kid who couldn’t keep his hands off the jug of punch in his family’s fridge. “I would drink all the punch in the house and drink no soft drinks. So they called me Punch, and I would have my own personal gallon in the fridge”
The good cook is serving pecan wood smoked hot links that are fiery and thick as a child’s forearm. A po boy is $5. I ask if he’s making the sausage from scratch and he responds that he sources them from Deep South Products out of Breaux Bridge La.
I make a mental note to run by there the next time I’m on my way to Texas.
“Where are you from man?” “I was born in Houston but raised in New Orleans. I trained with Chef Philip Lopez at Rambla and worked under John Besh at Besh Steakhouse, American Sector and Luke on St. Charles.I’ve been cooking for 20 years here in New Orleans”
Quite the resume.
Chef Punch sets up at Fox Bar III on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 6pm til the food’s gone. He’s been in business for himself for four years and runs a catering operation called Foodfellas.
That hot-ass po boy is covered in a damn fine sauce, homemade of course. I ask if it’s a ketchup base and he nods “Yes it is, with honey, butter, pineapple and Crystal hot sauce.
It’s solid gold and works great with the chile pepper-laden smoked link.
Chef Hyman Sotello will be at this year’s Voodoo Fest after years of persistently trying to score that hard-to-get gig. “The process of getting into Voodoo was apply and keep applying until your number is called. I did that for about 3 years and i was called in 2014 and let me tell you I blew them away and they called me back this year. The chef confides he also did a “whole lot of praying”
How did you learn to cook? “My Grandmother and my Mother inspired me to cook the way I do because when I was little they would slaughter a hog and use every piece of meat. Absolutely no waste.
Those old-school boucheries took place in San Juan, Texas in the Rio Grande Valley, the launch pad for 1000s of the best cooks in USA.
“I love to cook and have passion and pride to cook for people and make them happy.”
Don’t expect for Chef Punch to be cooking off a wagon forever though. He’s got plans to open up a brick and mortar in Uptown near where he currently posts up.
Something tells us with his amount of drive and talent that restaurant will open in the not too distant future.
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New Orleans Cajun Catering
At Fox Bar 3
3801 Washington Ave
New Orleans, LA
Hours of Operation
Thursday: 6pm til the food is gone
Friday: 6pm til the food is gone
Saturday: 6pm til the food is gone
Sunday: 6pm til the food is gone