May 26, 2022

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Colorado Springs chef puts Cajun meals on culinary map | Way of living

Robert and Becky Brunet are the proprietors and operators of Momma Pearl’s Cajun Kitchen, an award-winning restaurant on the city’s considerably north aspect. He is the chef and Becky runs the entrance of the household. Named soon after Robert’s mom, Pearl Theriot, the cafe presents what couple of some others in Colorado Springs do: Cajun specialties like po’boys, etouffée, jambalaya, frog legs and “a aspect of authentic alligator.”

The eatery was born from the couple’s troubles of being evacuated from their property in Louisiana just after hurricane Katrina, as nicely as job adjustments, and has survived the tribulations of the pandemic.

“If everyday living isn’t an journey, what’s the position?” Robert asks.

And his lifestyle has been complete of adventures (browse: troubles). Robert is the 10th of 13 little ones, born in 1959 in Houma, La. Houma is about an hour’s travel from New Orleans and sits along the famed Cajun Bayou Food Path, a assortment of beloved area establishments positioned in the state’s Lafourche and Terrebonne parishes.

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Soon following he was born, his spouse and children moved to the New Orleans area, exactly where he confronted his first of numerous hurdles.

“When I began 1st quality, I was categorised by the school technique as retarded and placed into special training,” Robert mentioned. “Remember, that was in the ’60s. Today I would be labeled as acquiring a studying disability. I heard a lot of, ‘You just can’t do this or that,’ because I was too modest, also brief. I was not picked to be on teams, so I did not get to enjoy football or other sporting activities.”

He normally challenged himself to confirm naysayers mistaken.

“I’m happy of my achievements,” he explained. “I was the initial boy or girl in my loved ones to go to college and get a degree in laptop or computer science.”

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Immediately after graduating from college or university in 1984, he started a extremely successful career in the computer technological know-how business in New Orleans. In 1996, his get the job done took him to an function in New Mexico, exactly where he fulfilled Rebecca (“Becky”) Beale.

“In the mid ’90s, I had a task programming for a enterprise that did Mardi Gras-design get-togethers in New Orleans and about the place,” he reported. “That was my initially exposure to the hospitality marketplace. We ended up staging a massive bash for a corporation’s conference in Albuquerque (New Mexico). Becky was the event manager at the resort in Albuquerque the place all the creation workforce and musical talent would be keeping.”

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Immediately after the shindig, he returned to New Orleans. The pair carried on a prolonged-length relationship, which led to marriage. Becky afterwards secured a placement at the JW Marriott in downtown New Orleans and relocated there with her two young children to be with Robert.

When Katrina strike in 2005, Robert, Becky and their relatives had been in the city when it commenced to flood. They packed anything they could and started out driving.

“We traveled all the way to Fort Worthy of, Texas, just before we could come across a resort that experienced space for us,” Robert mentioned.

Becky had lived in Colorado Springs ahead of, and when they have been evacuated, she begun executing some career searches.

“She reached out to The Broadmoor and was capable to get a career as a unique events coordinator,” Robert said. “Nine months later, I bought a occupation with a corporation that experienced a deal with Air Pressure satellite command community. We acquired a household, and almost everything was likely good.”

Factors commenced to drop apart in 2010 when Becky was laid off from The Broadmoor, and 4 months later Robert missing his position.

“We went from a 6-figure income to less than $30,000 a calendar year,” Robert said. “I experienced just turned 50 and … I required to do a thing that when I obtained up in the morning, I required to go do it. A thing I could be passionate about.”

He started off considering about building a dwelling performing some thing he’d done developing up: cooking.

“We all cooked, with my mother functioning all the time to assist assist the family,” he explained. “In Louisiana, cooking is genetic. Cooking was anything I could also build a enterprise all around.”

He started out by creating and advertising roast beef po’boys and gumbo at farmers markets around Colorado Springs.

“I tried using to sell gumbo at 7 o’clock in the early morning,” he said. “They didn’t sell really nicely considering the fact that most of the marketplaces have been early in the early morning, and people today ended up not hungry for major dishes. I started out generating Cajun-seasoned breakfast burritos, and they offered like insane.”

He later on began an in-dwelling chef enterprise called The Home Chef of Colorado Springs, where by he organized Cajun dinners for folks at their homes, since he did not have a business kitchen. At its substantial position, he experienced nine cooks operating for him, serving around 35 dinners a week.

“In 2013, 1 of the cooks informed me about a tiny cafe in the Rockrimmon spot that was for lease,” he said. “That grew to become our to start with location for Momma Pearl’s Cajun Kitchen.”

They stayed there a lot more than seven years.

“The to start with year, we designed $150,000 in income with our 6 tables,” he said. “We barely kept afloat. By 2019 we made $660,000 in the same spot. We were averaging a 27% development calendar year more than yr there. I knew we ended up blessed with a extremely potent subsequent.”

In the meantime, Becky had ongoing performing in motels and other companies as an party coordinator.

“She literally kept us from starving to death in the course of the very first handful of many years of functioning the cafe,” Brunet said.

In 2015, Becky brought her experience with front-of-the-home administration and buyer assistance to Momma Pearl’s.

“She jumped in and designed this put work,” Robert explained.

In 2020, the pair took a massive leap of religion and moved the restaurant to its recent location off Northgate Street in the Polaris Pointe Searching Heart. It is vastly larger, with a complete bar. Of class, we all know what happened that calendar year. The pandemic set the brakes on the eatery, and organization slowed down as they pivoted to takeout. But the Brunets have persevered.

All through the shutdown on dine-in assistance, Robert, like lots of other chefs and restaurant entrepreneurs, available help to each individual other. He manufactured quite a few podcast video clips to advertise to-go services at impartial dining places in the Springs. Later on he introduced the “Feed It Forward” Fb web page, to motivate eateries to donate their unused unexpected emergency food stuff merchandise to neighborhood food stuff financial institutions.

He bought a split in early 2021, when Robert Irvine’s Foods Network truth demonstrate “Restaurant Impossible” came contacting. The premise of the sequence is that in two times and on a supplies budget of $10,000, Irvine renovates a cafe with the target of supporting to restore it to profitability and prominence. He assesses its issues and then produces a prepare for new decor, oversees the refurbishment, calculates successful food expenditures, adjusts the menu, resolves conflicts and/or trains the workers.

“It was a raw and actual, truthful encounter,” Becky reported.

Robert explained, “I was happy of Becky for the honesty she shared with the producers of the clearly show.”

The cafe bought a fresh, upscale glance. The menu has essentially the same Cajun delights that have stored Momma Pearl’s doorways open up all these yrs. Irvine did create a handful of new dishes, which are proving to be group-pleasers, such as Cajun meatloaf patti melt and catfish cioppino.

“This restaurant is our lifetime,” Robert mentioned. “We never have 401(k)s or personal savings left — we experienced to dwell on people for a very long time. Now, the restaurant is our long term. A information I constantly tell my children is, ‘You only fail if you quit,’ and I’m not quitting.”

make contact with the writer: 636-0271.