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J. Shannon, 40; Chef in New Orleans

November 25, 2001|From Associated Press

NEW ORLEANS — Jamie Shannon, who succeeded Emeril Lagasse as executive chef at New Orleans' famed Commander's Palace restaurant and championed the use of regional ingredients, has died. He was 40.

Shannon died Friday at the M.D. Anderson Center in Houston, where he had been undergoing treatment for cancer.

Shannon was the co-author of "Commander's Kitchen," a cookbook that reflected his preference for American cooking with recipes like Tasso shrimp and Creole bouillabaisse. At Commander's, he drew on both the rich culinary culture of south Louisiana and the culinary tradition that began when he was growing up on a New Jersey farm.

Shannon was a protege of Lagasse, star of the NBC comedy "Emeril." Shannon took the prestigious James Beard Award as best chef in the Southeast in 1999. Three years before, with Shannon as executive chef, Commander's was named the best restaurant in the country by the Beard Foundation.

Shannon arrived at Commander's in 1984, the year Lagasse became executive chef at the restaurant where another top chef, Paul Prudhomme, also once worked. After Lagasse's departure in 1990 to open Emeril's, Shannon took over the top post.

Under Shannon's direction, Commander's kitchen produced its own Worcestershire sauce, cheeses and sausages, and worked with regional cottage industries to create modern dishes that Shannon felt were true to traditional Creole-Acadian cooking. He said 70% of the products used by the restaurant came from within 100 miles.

"For American cuisine to grow, we're going to have to support local producers," Shannon once said. "And be flexible as chefs and customers--and not demand what's not available. The best cuisine is to cook and eat what's in our own backyard."

Born in Sea Isle, N.J., Shannon grew up in a home where virtually everything came from the farm.

After he began winning awards, he prepared a biography that listed the lusty homemade dishes he grew up with--stuffed cabbage, black walnut pie and fresh peach brandy, all made from scratch.

His first restaurant job was in a cafeteria.

He later attended the Culinary Institute of America on scholarship and prepared French cuisine at the Trump Towers Hotel & Casino in Atlantic City before moving to New Orleans.

Information on survivors and funeral services was not immediately available.

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