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The proprietors of Lucky’s Fire & Smoke, Lafayette’s newest restaurant, discuss their unique cuisine which features farm-direct American Wagyu beef, poultry, locally sourced seafood, and plant-based offerings.
Acclaimed chef and author, Jimmy Schmidt, a three-time winner of the James Beard award who created this fine-dining concept along with Lucky’s co-owner, Eddie Khoury, a restauranteur of 30 years who brought this unique restaurant to Lafayette, join our discussion.
Over the years, Chef Jimmy Schmidt’s culinary accomplishments have been consistently recognized. He has been named on the Food & Wine Magazine Honor Roll of American Chefs, Cooks Magazine Who’s Who of Cooking in America, Gourmet Magazine America’s Best Restaurants, USA Today’s 10 Best Destinations in Southern California and awarded a 5 Star Diamond Award from the American Academy of Hospitality Sciences. And yes, he has served as guest chef judge on Top Chef.
Jimmy has also published many cookbooks and contributed to Bon Appetit, Cuisine, Gourmet, Food & Wine.
In 2018, Jimmy Schmidt and his team created a new way to enjoy the wonderful flavors of American BBQ with Lucky’s Noble Fire & Smoke. When his longtime friend and colleague, Eddie Khoury, realized the unique concept of Lucky’s, he convinced Jimmy to help him bring it to the Lafayette market; Lucky’s is the first of its kind to open in the U. S.
Lucky’s Fire & Smoke is located at 6774 Johnston Street, Lafayette LA 70503. It offers a Saturday and Sunday Brunch from 10 am to 3 pm, and is open Tuesday through Saturday 5 to 10 pm, and Sunday, 5 to 9 pm. Visit https://luckyslafayette.com for more information. The featured photo is Lucky’s stuffed Deviled Egg dish featuring Wagyu beef bacon on top. Lucky’s Lafayette location is the first to open in the U. S.
Jimmy grew up in Champagne, Illinois, working on the family farm as a kid, which influenced his appreciation of whole foods and nature, something he only came to realize as an adult. His cooking skills are deeply based on science and influenced by his background in engineering, as his focus is not only on taste but nutrition, extracting the maximum health benefits from each meal prepared.
While in college, Jimmy studied electrical engineering at the University of Illinois and went to France to earn language credits where he took cooking classes for entertainment. While there, he fell in love with food and wine and studied under Madeleine Kamman. He earned a culinary degree from Luberon College and the French Institut Technique du Vin diploma from Maison du Vin in Avignon.
Jimmy followed Madeleine to Boston where he worked for her in the restaurant business for a number of years; he graduated magna cum laude and first in class with a Professional Chef’s diploma from Modern Gourmet. He pursued higher education at Harvard University Graduate School of Business from 1999 through 2001. Madeleine generously shared with Jimmy not only what food was, but the recipes and the chemistry behind great cuisine. Jimmy says, “It lit a fire under me to always reach out to learn more.” He’s always focused on the science behind cooking and creating great dishes.
Chef Jimmy Schmidt’s whole focus is on the science behind the preparation of foods. “You instinctually crave foods in season. They’ll all have the highest amount of nutrition and flavor right off the tree and plant. As a chef that focuses on developing flavors, hand in hand with fresh foods comes great nutrition. I ask how can I make this taste better. My scientific research is to understand how things taste better and how can I use culinary techniques to accentuate flavor while also releasing bioactive ingredients that are nutritionally based so that diners can absorb bioflavonoids in their body to benefit from the meal?”
The name, “Lucky’s Fire & Smoke,” was inspired by the book “Catching Fire – How Cooking Made Us Human,” written by Richard Wrangham. Wrangham documents the early human evolution as humans learned to start fires, which made food’s nutrients much more accessible to the body. This innovative development led to changes in how long humans had to spend to forage for food, chew their catch, digest the raw food, etc. Man evolved accordingly, developing a smaller jaw and larger brain, and societies developed as humans didn’t have to spend all day hunting for food. Agriculture and domestication of animals thus began as humans were able to spend more time with other humans. (This is fascinating stuff!).
For those of you curious about what Wagyu beef is: The Wagyu breed of cattle was originally a work animal that came over from China to Japan. Its unique characteristic is that it has the ability to eat local pasture grasses and convert that into proteins in its muscles and create mega fatty acids in the marbling. It makes the beef delicious throughout the whole body of the animal allowing you to get the flavor and nutrition from all parts of the animal. Jimmy says, “It is ridiculously delicious when slow-cooked. Wagyu cattle convert pasture into micronutrients within their protein structure along with the omega fats that the human race can benefit from by using that as a protein source. It’s great for the planet and us.”
“We like to make all the foods you love that love you back. We offer foods that are fun, delicious, and take care of the nutrition part too. People can vote with their fork. Eating well is a celebration of life. I encourage everyone to eat well and vote for the things that taste better and are better for you. That will perpetuate this food market’s growth. Lafayette is a perfect place to launch Lucky’s as first in the U. S. The people are all about food and enjoying the great things in life. It’s a perfect fit!” Chef Jimmy Schmidt
Jimmy teamed up with U. S. Western farmers to develop an American Wagyu beef (the father is Wagyu and the mother is a Black Angus) to create an affordable version of the original Japanese Wagyu. The animals are harvested and aged to a specific pH before they’re cut. This allows the natural acidic system to break down. The meat is rubbed down with spices in a technique that goes back to Babylonian times, trapping in nutrition, flavor, and texture. The beef is slow cooked at 145 degrees for 24 hours which allows the omega fatty acids to melt into the meat. The cooking is finished at Lucky’s in Lafayette while smoked in a bag and brought to the diners at their table where the bag is cut before them and smoke pours out….a true sensory experience.
Diners at Lucky’s can relax if they are gluten intolerant. No wheat or gluten is on the menu. Breads are baked with alternative grains such as sorghum and other ancient grains that add more protein and fiber, fewer carbs to foods. There is also a vegan option offering basmati rice and lentils that delivers 21 amino acids for a complete protein.
For those who would like to imbibe in adult beverages, the bar offers a cocktail menu that features special syrups and tonics that capture “a bunch of polyphenols from herbs…allowing additional flavor with a sneak of health polyphenols.
Eddie Khoury, proprietor of Lucky’s, worked with Jimmy Schmidt for years, starting in 1991. After Eddie moved down south, he and Jimmy reconnected 20 years later and he fell in love with the Lucky’s concept. The old Zuhause location (Johnston Street at E. Broussard) was selected as the perfect site to offer this unique dining concept. Chef Brian Recor, a colleague of Jimmy Schmidt, was brought in and all local staff have been trained by Schmidt.
Eddie Khoury has been in the restaurant business for 30 years and is a lifelong colleague of Jimmy Schmidt. He says, “Jimmy’s take on food is totally different. He makes them healthy and delicious at the same time. Our food at Lucky’s Fire & Smoke appeals to all your senses….taste, sight, and hearing. Jimmy plays off it all.”
We wish the best of success to Lucky’s Fire & Smoke. Please check them out at https://luckyslafayette.com/.