Chef John Folse, born in St. James Parish in 1946, 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.
When Folse opened Lafitte’s Landing Restaurant in 1978 in Donaldsonville, Louisiana, 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 was the first non-Italian chef to create the Vatican State Dinner in Rome. Promotional restaurants also included London in 1991 and 1993, Bogota in 1991, Taipei in 1992 and 1994 and Seoul in 1994. In 1988, the Sales and Marketing Executives of Greater Baton Rouge named Folse “Marketer of the Year” and the Louisiana Legislature gave him the title of “Louisiana’s Culinary Ambassador to the World.”
The international success of Folse’s cornerstone property, Lafitte’s Landing Restaurant, spawned the incorporation of several other Chef John Folse & Company properties. White Oak Plantation in 1986 established Folse’s catering and events management division. Chef John Folse & Company Publishing, since 1989, has produced ten cookbooks in his Cajun and Creole series, plus a novel, two children’s books and a religious memoir by other authors. His Can You Dig It vegetable cookbook won the Benny award for Best Cookbook, the highest honor in the 2015 Premier Print Awards. “A Taste of Louisiana” is Folse’s international television series produced by Louisiana Public Broadcasting since 1990. Chef John Folse & Company Manufacturing, since 1991, is one of the few chef-owned food manufacturing companies in America producing custom-manufactured foods for restaurants as well as retail and foodservice industries. In January 2005 he opened a USDA manufacturing plant in Donaldsonville, and in 2007 growing demands pushed the plant to expand. In 2008, Folse cut the ribbon of his expanded 68,000 square-foot food manufacturing plant.
The Chef John Folse Culinary Institute at Nicholls State University (NSU) in Thibodaux, La., opened in October 1994 and is devoted to the preservation of Louisiana’s rich culinary and cultural heritage. In August 2015, an independent culinary arts building was dedicated.
In August 1996, Folse began broadcasting his radio cooking talk show, “Stirrin’ It Up.” In 2001, “Stirrin’ It Up” expanded to a television cooking segment during the 5 p.m. newscast on WAFB-TV Channel 9 in Baton Rouge, La. In 2016, WVUE-TV FOX 8 in New Orleans started airing “Stirrin’ It Up”! cooking segments during the morning show.
The bakery division was launched in 1996 to create specialty desserts, pastries and savories. In October 1998, a fire destroyed the 200-year-old Viala Plantation, which housed Lafitte’s Landing Restaurant, and in May 1999 Folse opened his former Donaldsonville home as Lafitte s Landing Restaurant at Bittersweet Plantation offering fine dining and bed and breakfast accommodations. In the year 2000, Folse incorporated Digi-Tek Productions, a full service digital recording studio.
Folse has received numerous national and international accolades. In 1987, the Louisiana Restaurant Association (LRA) named him “Louisiana Restaurateur of the Year.’ In 1989, Nation’s Restaurant News inducted Lafitte’s Landing Restaurant into its “Fine Dining Hall of Fame.” In 1990, the American Culinary Federation (ACF) named Folse the “National Chef of the Year.” In 1991, Folse was inducted into The Honorable Order of the Golden Toque, indication of a lifetime of dedication to the pursuit of excellence in the culinary arts. In 1992, Johnson & Wales University in Providence, R.I., recognized Folse with an Honorary Doctorate of Culinary Arts, as did Baltimore International Culinary College in 199. 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. (Folse served two terms as DiRoNA Chairman.) ln 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 2011 and 2016 Folse received their “Food Vendor of the Year” Award; and in 2012, he received TGI Fridays Purposeful Innovation Award. In 1998, Food Arts magazine awarded Folse the “Silver Spoon Award” for his sterling performance and contributions to the food service industry. In 1999, the Research Chefs Association (RCA) named Chef John Folse & Company Pioneers in Culinology because of the efforts of Folse and his culinary research team. In 2001, Folse was elected to RCA’s Board of Directors and served as RCA president from 2005-2007. In 2006 Folse was inducted into the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation’s College of Diplomates. He was appointed by the Governor as the Marketing Specialist for the Louisiana Seafood Promotion & Marketing Board in 2008, and also served as Chairman in 2013.
In November 1999, the Acadiana Chapter of the American Culinary Federation inducted Folse into the Louisiana Chefs Hall of Fame for his lifetime contributions to the promotion of Louisiana cuisine. Additionally, Folse received the Antonin Careme Medal in November 2000 and has served on the National Dairy Council Chefs Advisory Panel. In 2007, Folse served as the American judge for the Bocuse d’Or World Cuisine Contest in Lyon, France. In October 2008, Folse was awarded the Louisiana Governor’s Cultural Economic Development Arts Award and South Foodways Alliance Lifetime Achievement Award. In August 2011, Folse was honored with the Grace “Mama” Marino Lifetime Achievement Award by Baton Rouge Epicurean Society and in December he received an Honorary Doctorate of Commerce from NSU.
In August 2010, Folse announced his partnership with Chef Rick Tramonto and the formation of Home on the Range: Folse Tramonto Restaurant Development, LLC. They opened Restaurant R’evolution in June 2012 at 777 Bienville St. at the Royal Sonesta Hotel in New Orleans, a highly acclaimed, award-winning restaurant. In November 2019 Folse opened Folse Market in the state-of-the-art New Orleans International Airport. As the anchor restaurant of Concourse C Folse Market serves a traditional taste of ew Orleans cuisine to travelers.
In August 2012, Folse was honored to represent Louisiana and the Gulf Coast with BP’s Spirit of the Gulf campaign at the London Olympics. He led a group of eight Gulf region chefs who prepared and served seafood dishes to guests at USA House in an effort to promote Gulf Seafood worldwide. [n spring 2013 Folse received the Lifetime Achievement Award from Research Chefs Association. In March 2014 Folse received St. Joseph Cathedral Community Award given by Bishop Robert Muench Bishop of the Diocese of Baton Rouge. In August 2015 LRA honored him with the Hall of Fame award. ln July 2017 Folse was inducted into the American Academy of Chefs (AAC) Culinary Hall of Fame, the highest honor AAC can bestow upon any individual. He also received the Chaine de Rotisseurs Academie Brillat-Savarin Medal at the same time. In 2019 he was awarded ACF’s Hermann G. Rusch Chefs Achievement and Humanitarian Award. In January 2020, New Orleans Wine & Food Experience (NOWFE) honored Folse with Ella Brennan Lifetime Achievement in Hospitality Award. In 2021, Baton Rouge Business Report inducted him into the Baton Rouge Business Hall of Fame. Currently, he serves as President of the Sister Dulce Foundation Board of Trustees.
Forty 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.
AWARDS AND ACCOLADES
Chef John Folse
- 1983 American Culinary Federation of Greater Baton Rouge, Founding officer
- 1987 Louisiana Restaurant Association, “Louisiana Restaurateur of the Year”
- 1988 The Sales and Marketing ;Executives of Greater Baton Rouge, “Marketer of the Year”
- 1988 Louisiana Legislature, “Louisiana’s Culinary Ambassador to the World”
- 1990 American Culinary Federation, “National Chef of the Year”
- 1991 The Honorable Order of the Golden Toque member
- 1992 Johnson & Wales University, Honorary Doctorate of Culinary Arts
- 1993 Central Region of the American Culinary Federation, Vice President
- 1994 American Culinary Federation, National President
- 1995 Baltimore International Culinary College, Honorary Doctorate of Culinary Arts
- 1995 Nation’s Restaurant News, Profiles of Power”
- 1995 American Culinary Federation National Chairman
- 1996 Distinguished Restaurants of North America (DiRoNa), Board of Directors
- 1998 Food Arts magazine, Silver Spoon Award
- 1999 American Culinary Federation, Louisiana Chefs Hall of Fame
- 1999 Distinguished Restaurants ;of North America (DiRoNa), Vice-Chairman
- 1999 Distinguished Restaurants :of North America (DiRoNa) International Conference, New Orleans, Conference Chairman
- 2000 Antonin Careme Medal
- 2000 National Dairy Council, Chefs’ Advisory Panel
- 2000 Distinguished Restaurants of North America (DiRoNa) International Conference, New York City, Conference Chairman
- 2000-2001 Distinguished Restaurants of North America (DiRoNa), Chairman
- 2001 Research Chefs Association, Board of Directors
- 2002 Distinguished Restaurants of North America (DiRoNa) International Conference, Seattle, Conference Chairman
- 2003 American Cheese Society,]Cheese Advisory Panel
- 2003 Distinguished Restaurants of North America (DiRoNa) International Conference, Montreal, Conference Chairman
- 2004 Distinguished Restaurants of North America (DiRoNa) International Conference, West Palm Beach, Conference Chairman
- 2005-2007 Research Chefs Association, President
- 2006 National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation, College of Diplomates
- 2007 Distinguished Restaurants of North America (DiRoNa) International Conference, Coeur d’Alene, Conference Chairman
- 2007 Bocuse d’Or World Cuisine Contest, American Judge
- 2008 Louisiana Governor’s Cultural Economic Development Arts Award
- 2008 Distinguished Restaurants of North America (DiRoNa) International Conference, New Orleans, Conference Chairman
- 2008 Southern Foodways Alliance, Lifetime Achievement Award
- 2008 Louisiana Seafood Promotion & Marketing Board, Marketing Specialist
- 2011 Baton Rouge Epicurean Society, Grace “Mama” Marino Lifetime Achievement Award
- 2011 Nicholls State University, Honorary Doctorate of Commerce
- 2012-2018 Sister Dulce Foundation, Board of Trustees
- 2012 BP’s Spirit of the Gulf Campaign Leader, London Olympics
- 2013 Louisiana Seafood Promotion & Marketing Board, Chairman
- 2013 Research Chefs Association, Lifetime Achievement Award
- 2014 St. Joseph’s Cathedral Community Award
- 2015 Louisiana Restaurant Association, Hall of Fame Award
- 2015 Distinguished Restaurants of North America (DiRoNa) International Conference, New Orleans, Conference Chairman
- 2017 American Academy of Chefs, Culinary Hall of Fame
- 2017 Chaine de Rotisseurs Academie Brillat-Savarin Medal
- 2019 American Culinary Federation, Hermann G. Rusch Chefs Achievement and Humanitarian Award
- 2019-Present Sister Dulce Foundation Board of Trustees, President
- 2020 New Orleans Wine & Food Experience (NOWFE), Ella Brennan Lifetime Achievement in Hospitality Award
Chef John Folse & Company
- 1997 TGI Friday’s, Procurement Product Development Award
- 1999 Research Chefs Association, “Pioneers in Culinology”
- 2011 TGI Friday’s, “Food Vendor of the Year”
- 2012 TGI Friday’s, “Purposeful Innovation Award”
- 2016 TGI Friday’s, “Vendor of Excellence”
- 1989 Nation’s Restaurant News, “Fine Dining Hall of Fame”
- 1996 Distinguished Restaurants-of North America (DiRoNa), Award of Excellence