Our work carried us abroad last week as we re-entered the pop up restaurant fray in Austin, Texas where we ruled the world of guerilla kitchens for four years.
After cooking for a sold-out house we laid back for a couple days then began motoring toward our home in New Orleans 9th Ward.
Beaumont Texas is always a good way-station on our trips between the Crescent City and Austin.
We had gotten wind of a new restaurant in Big Money Texas (Beaumont’s nickname) and were eager to get off the road and see if Monica’s is worth the hype.
After a week without a po boy it didn’t take long to figure out what we would be eating in Beaumont’s first and only ‘farm to table’ cafe.
Chef Monica Cobb has traveled the world from her girlhood home of Magnolia Springs-cooking from Cairo, Egypt where she worked on a riverboat on the Nile-to Los Angeles, California where she studied under Wolfgang Puck at his renowned restaurant Spago.
In an interview with Artstudio, Chef Cobb said “I came in through the back door of the prep kitchen and immediately I was immersed in a sea of white chef coats, sharp knives, flames, boiling pots of stock, camaraderie, and lots and lots of talent”.
She never looked back.
After a stint working as Matt Groening’s private chef Cobb took the path of many cooks and traveled around honing her chops and picking up skills before finally returning to Southeast Texas where she was raised.
A successful food truck venture has now led her into her first brick and mortar operation: Monica’s Restaurant.
Walking in, the brightly-lighted cafe is nearing sellout capacity. A steady hum of conversation fills the air as Beaumont’s art community is out in force for a community gathering. We make a beeline for the counter where the cashier begins reciting the short menu; we stop her when she comes to the po boy or Banh Mon as they call their sandwich.
At $14.50 this is one dear banh mi but Cobb is committed to only using local products and cooking them in the slow-food fashion so we gladly pony up. Sourcing regionally is a commitment we made years ago in our cooking and we are happy to pay a few extra bucks to support the cause.
The po boy arrives shortly and it is a beauty. A culinary mashup is at play as the sandwich consists of a Mexican bolillo bun (from Ana’s Mexican Bakery) crammed full of a New Orleans-style shrimp (Gulf of Mexico-sourced) remoulade, and garnished with all the typical Vietnamese accoutrement with the addition of a vegan mayo that we are opposed to on grounds of common decency but still find to be delicious.
Vegans are plainly not to be trusted but their mayonnaise, in this instance, is delicious.
The good chef makes her way to the table where we pry into her biography to discover why such a talented lady has decided to settle down in Beaumont the land of hot links and boudain (the preferred East Texas spelling)
Cobb’s Texas roots run deep and we can attest that being separated from the Lone Star state is a tough way to live your life. The chef is married to her college sweetheart and committed to raising a family and building a business in Beaumont.
We love Big Money and always drop off the freeway to sit a spell when we’re in the region. Beaumont ain’t New Orleans by a long shot but with Monica’s Restaurant flinging their doors open, the old town is taking tentative steps towards being known for more than barbecue crabs at Sartin’s and ‘grease balls’ at Patillo’s BBQ.
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