Dig Baton Rouge

Chef Celeste brings fresh perspective to southern cooking

No one does Louisiana cooking quite like Chef Celeste Gill.

Known simply as “Chef Celeste,” the Detroit-native could give any Louisianian a run for their money in the kitchen. After moving to the Bayou State from Virginia, Celeste instantly fell in love with Louisiana cuisine and the capital city.

“I just absolutely love downtown Baton Rouge,” she said.

Celeste has been cooking in Louisiana kitchens for more than 20 years. She opened her first restaurant in Slaughter, Louisiana, in 2000. Attending culinary school in Hawaii furthered Celeste’s love for fresh ingredients, which she says is a vital component of her kitchen.

Celeste brings those outside influences to her Louisiana cuisine. Her classic Reuben is made with coleslaw, and she blends curry and Asian spices with Louisiana flavors in her chicken salad sandwich.

“I bring a different flair, my own take on it. I don’t try to imitate what anyone else is doing,” she said.

Her top cooking tip is to use as many fresh ingredients as possible. If you haven’t shopped at the local farmer’s market, she said it’s a great way to stock your pantry with fresh Louisiana-grown ingredients. You can even pick up some of Chef Celeste’s honey mustard dressing.

“Your canned goods should be for hurricane purposes only,” she said.

When it comes to Louisiana cooking, Celeste lets the food speak for itself. Unlike many other states, Louisiana is home to a wealth of fresh ingredients, while others often need foods shipped from different places.

“From the field to the water, we can really supply our table year-round.”

Even if you’re a cooking newbie, using fresh ingredients can help you fake it til you make it. For those who are less inclined in the kitchen, Celeste said oven-roasting some garlic in oil will make your kitchen smell amazing, and as long as you have great food to follow, your guests won’t be the wiser.

It’s clear that Chef Celeste stays true to her roots. She remembers helping dice vegetables with her mom in the kitchen as a child. Cooking is a family tradition for Celeste, with several generations feeling right at home in the kitchen. Her daughter, Taylor, already plays a vital role in her business.

But she noted, with all the hustle and bustle of her restaurants, cooking is the last thing she wants to do at home. When she’s not in the kitchen, Celeste can sometimes be found at Magpie Café, which she said has a laidback atmosphere.

Her favorite place to go out for a bite is, wait for it, Buffalo Wild Wings by the LSU campus. She said not only is the staff friendly, but there’s no pressure in the commercialized chain restaurant. As a chef, Celeste said it can be hard to get a normal dining experience.

She prefers simple foods, like a nice steak that she doesn’t have to cook herself. She said Sullivan’s and Tsunami have great cuts.

Celeste has not only brought her own unique flavors to Louisiana food: She also shares Creole cuisine with the world. On her show, “Cooking up Louisiana Treasures,” she travels the state to show how locally grown ingredients make it from the farm to the table.

The expert chef offers cooking classes at her downtown bistro in the Main Street Market the last Thursday of every month. She’s also teaching summer classes to a group of 12- to 14-year-olds, who will all have their own recipe books at the end of the class. Some of her students even help out at her bistro, chopping vegetables and working customer service.

Chef Celeste’s dishes can be found all over town. Her bistro at the Red Stick Farmer’s Market features a breakfast buffet complete with croissant sandwiches and homemade bacon rum jam.

At the market, Celeste manages to give her customers a small town feel in the center of downtown. One regular even has his own special, simply called “The Jack.”

Celeste’s influence is also in other parts of Baton Rouge. She has a location at the Neuromedical Center, will soon have salads and sandwiches at the LSU Dairy Store, and has provided the croissants at Highland Coffee for 15 years. Chef Celeste even brings her food to you through her catering service.

In addition, she aims to help the emergency response effort through her partnership with the state of Louisiana as an approved vendor for emergency food preparation. She provides food for emergency response teams and those impacted by disasters.

Though she’s devoted to her food, Celeste is expanding her line of products, which she playfully calls her retirement plan. Offering everything from spices to dressings, it’s safe to say Chef Celeste will never be completely out of the kitchen.

But through all of her endeavors, Celeste knows she wouldn’t be where she is without the help of her teams, her marketing director and her daughter. They keep everything moving.

With her enterprise showing no signs of stopping, Chef Celeste isn’t slowing down anytime soon.

More about Chef Celeste

What’s your favorite dish in town that isn’t your own?
Steak at Sullivan’s

Your top cooking tip?
Use fresh ingredients from the local farmer’s market

Favorite Memory as a Chef?
Dicing vegetables as a child with her family

Favorite place to eat that isn’t your own place?
Buffalo Wild Wings by LSU’s campus


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