Chef John Folse was born in St. James Parish in 1946. He learned early that the secrets of Cajun cooking lay in the unique ingredients of Louisiana’s swamp floor pantry. Folse seasoned these raw ingredients with his passion for Louisiana culture and cuisine, and from his cast iron pots emerged Chef John Folse & Company.
Folse opened Lafitte’s Landing Restaurant in 1978 in Donaldsonville. He set out to market his restaurant by taking “A Taste of Louisiana” worldwide. He introduced Louisiana’s indigenous cuisine to Japan in 1985, Beijing in 1986, and Hong Kong and Paris in 1987. In 1988, Folse made international headlines with the opening of “Lafitte’s Landing East” in Moscow during the Presidential Summit between Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev. In 1989, Folse created the first Vatican State Dinner in Rome. Promotional restaurants were also opened in London in 1991 and 1993, Bogota in 1991, Taipei in 1992 and 1994, and Seoul in 1994. In 1988, Folse was named “Louisiana’s Marketing Ambassador to the World” by the Louisiana Sales and Marketing Executives and “Louisiana’s Culinary Ambassador to the World” by the Louisiana Legislature.
The international success of Lafitte’s Landing Restaurant spawned the incorporation of several other Chef John Folse & Company properties. He established his catering division at White Oak Plantation in 1986. Chef John Folse & Company Publishing has produced six Cajun and Creole cookbooks since 1989. Folse’s cooking series, “A Taste of Louisiana with Chef John Folse & Co.,” has been produced by Louisiana Public Broadcasting since 1990 and airs throughout America on PBS and is also syndicated internationally. Since 1991, Chef John Folse & Company Manufacturing has been producing custom manufactured foods for the retail and food service industry. It is one of the few chef-owned food manufacturing companies in America. The Chef John Folse Culinary Institute at Nicholls State University in Thibodaux, La. opened in October 1994. It is dedicated to the preservation of Louisiana’s rich culinary and cultural heritage. In August 1996 Folse began broadcasting his radio cooking talk show, “Stirrin’ It Up…The Best Tasting Show on Talk Radio.” Exceptional Endings, the pastry division, was launched in 1996 to create specialty desserts, pastries and savories. In October of 1998, a fire destroyed the 200-year-old Viala Plantation, which housed Lafitte’s Landing Restaurant. In spring 1999 Folse opened his former Donaldsonville home as Lafitte’s Landing Restaurant at Bittersweet Plantation, offering fine dining and bed and breakfast accommodations.
Folse has received numerous national and international accolades. In 1987 the Louisiana Restaurant Association named him “Louisiana Restaurateur of the Year”. In 1989 Lafitte’s Landing Restaurant was inducted into Nation’s Restaurant News’ “Fine Dining Hall of Fame.” In 1990 the American Culinary Federation named Folse the “National Chef of the Year”. Folse has been recognized with honorary Doctor of Culinary Arts degrees from Johnson & Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island. and the Baltimore International Culinary College. In 1994 he assumed the role of National President of the American Culinary Federation, the largest organization of professional chefs in America. In 1995 Folse was one of 50 people recognized in Nation’s Restaurant News’ “Profiles of Power.” In 1996 Lafitte’s Landing Restaurant received the Award of Excellence from Distinguished Restaurants of North America (DRNA). Folse serves as DRNA Vice Chairman and will serve as Chairman in 2000. In 1998 Chef John Folse & Company Manufacturing received TGI Friday’s Inc. Procurement Product Development Award for assisting in the development of Friday’s Jack Daniels® Glaze. In 1998 Food Arts Magazine awarded Folse the “Silver Spoon Award” for his sterling performance and contributions to the food service industry.
Twenty years of culinary excellence later, Folse is still adding ingredients to the corporate gumbo he calls Chef John Folse & Company, which is as diverse as the Louisiana landscape, and he would not want it any other way.