A visit to Alzina’s Kitchen down the bayou in Galliano, Louisiana was no ordinary dinner outing.

People would make reservations far in advance and often travel great distances for meals that played out like family suppers, served in a one-time welding shed by Bayou Lafourche.

Perhaps most memorable was the host, Alzina Toups, who for decades gave her visitors a taste of Louisiana cooking and something more.

“I wanted my guests to know how the Cajuns live,” Toups said during what proved to be her final interview, in December 2021. “They saw Cajun life on the front burner, not on the back burner.”

Toups died Monday, May 2, at age 94, confirmed her granddaughter, Jenny Stevens. She had suffered congestive heart failure and died surrounded by family at home, a small house next to Alzina’s Kitchen.

In this photo from 2006, Cajun cook Alzina Toups checks a recipe inside Alzina’s Kitchen in Galliano. (Staff photo from the Times-Picayune archive by Susan Poag)

She was born in a clapboard cottage just steps away from the home in which she died nearly a century later, and she spent her entire life in this tight-knit community. Her life revolved around her family and her Catholic faith. She and her late husband David had two sons, Anthony Toups and the late Joey Toups, and her grandchildren and great-grandchildren all live nearby.


Five generations of the Toups family and their friends gather with Alzina Toups, center, at the head of the table at her great-grandson’s restaurant, Kajun Twist & Grill in Lockport. (Photo by Chris Granger | The Times-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate)

It was her skills in the kitchen, and the way that she could convey the stories of Louisiana food and family, that carried her reputation far and wide.

“God gave me this gift”

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Toups never ran a traditional restaurant and always called herself a cook, not a chef. One of her proudest skills was her ability to debone a chicken in four minutes flat.

She cooked breakfasts for clergy at her church, and when priests visited from other parishes, she would put on big, home-style spreads for them. This set the stage for Alzina’s Kitchen, which started in 1977, as Toups’ approach to community meals continued to gain devotees.


In this photo from 2006, guests begin their meal at Alzina’s Kitchen in Galliano, which hosts private groups for family style Cajun meals. (Staff photo from the Times-Picayune archive by Susan Poag)

More like a dinner club than a conventional restaurant, visitors arrived to find a metal building with no windows, no sign over the door and no separation between the cafeteria-like dinner tables and the kitchen. Toups would serve one meal for one group per night, with dishes like shrimp gumbo, smothered pork loin, black eyed pea jambalaya, chicken and shrimp fricassee and walnut tart.

Many of her recipes were passed down to her from prior generations, and much of her cooking drew from ingredients she could procure from local farms or pull straight from the bayou.

“God gave me this gift, to really think about what to put in food,” Toups said in a 2006 interview. “Life is a mystery. We don’t know the future, or what’s going to happen. We know the past.”


Jenny Toups Stevens (left) talks with her grandmother Alzina Toups, seated, during a family lunch at the Kajun Twist & Grill in Lockport. (Photo by Chris Granger | The Times-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate)

Toups had retired and was passing the reins over to Stevens when Hurricane Ida hit, causing major damage to Alzina’s Kitchen. Repairs are ongoing, and Stevens now says she plans to reopen Alzina’s Kitchen in the fall.

A funeral mass will be held at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Galliano on Wednesday (May 4) at 10 a.m. with burial following in Cheramie Cemetery.

Alzina Toups, 94, sat at the head of a long lunch table at her great-grandson’s restaurant, Kajun Twist & Grill in Lockport. It was filled…

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