We drove about 7 miles to Ville Platte, a town of 8,000 population. The Chamber of Commerce suggested we visit this beautiful old restored bank building, Jack Miller’s Sauce and Seasonings Company, and Slap Ya Mama Cajun Seasonings Co.
The restored bank building has been turned into an upscale restaurant called The Cocks Tail.
It is as beautiful on the inside as the outside.
The gorgeous old gas lamps have been wired for electricity.
The old broken tiles replaced with new stuff; period border tile sets off the brick and flat tile.
Ditto the metal ceiling tiles and corner decorations. Replaced with a replica of what was there.
What a delightful place. A great menu as in shrimp etouffee stuffed baked potato, portobello soup, all the usual southern fried dishes and a huge variety of tempting sandwiches, flatbreads and wraps. Yum.
We headed out to Jack Miller’s place promising to go back for lunch. We were intrigued by the fact Jack Miller’s carries a line of salt free seasonings. This is a picture of a picture of Jack Miller, the founder of the company, now deceased.
His son Kermit Miller runs the company with his wife, two sons and one employee. The no salt seasoning is an interesting story. His parents owned a restaurant where Jack was always fooling with sauces and seasonings for his dishes. He had a friend whose daughter was born without the ability to tolerate salt, none at all. Jack fooled around with spices and flavors and made seasoning for the daughter without salt until she finally grew out of the condition. During that time, he perfected a tasty concoction that suited other people’s needs who prefer not to use so much salt.
Jack Miller’s Bar-B-Que sauce though, is their top seller. It was developed out of need. Jack Miller’s American Inn Restaurant couldn’t get enough ground meat, beef, during the war years. In 1941 all these service men were in town and they were hungry. He realized the farmers in the area had some pork and lots of chickens. So, he fooled with sauces to make it tasty and it was. Over the years, people would come to the restaurant with their own jars and ask Jack to sell them a little of that sauce. (The sauce pictured above as raw ingredients, ready to cook.) Jack turned one part of the restaurant into a sauce “factory”.
Kermit’s son, Christian, loads one of three steam tubs where the sauce is cooked.
It flows by pipe into the next room where it is bottled.
We happened in at the end of a run. Kermit hit the handle of the auto filler to make it squirt out the last bit of sauce. (Partially filled jars.)
His employee hand fills the jars and sends it back through the bottle labeler and capper.
The finished product that is made daily, 500 to 700 gallons a day. Come May when the weather warms, it flies out of the warehouse. Kermit talks fondly of his father’s ways. He did everything by hand. On a restaurant stove, stirring and stirring the product so it wouldn’t burn. He would deliver to a Mom And Pop grocery and sell the a case of sauce and explain, I’ll come back and if it doesn’t sell, I’ll take it back and give you your money back. “You can’t do business like that anymore,” says Kermit.
Walmart approached him about selling in their stores. He has several products other than the original sauce. It is carried in all Louisiana Walmarts. He ships to a winery in California, to Chef Prudhomme, to Japan…literally all over the world from on-line. Tabasco asked him to design a sauce that added tabasco, and they sell it under Tabasco’s name and worldwide reach. Prodhomme sells his own seasonings but keeps Jack Miller’s name on what they buy from him.
Kermit is a true Cajun, laid back, friendly and humorous. He calls this his secret Cajun Engineering. A huge sewn together plastic bag, fitted with a wood stove damper, from which he dispenses cellulose packing “peanuts” or nuggets for shipping his product. He reuses boxes and prefers to use the biodegradable cellulose instead of styrofoam. What a neat guy and an interesting success story. He sent us home with a gift pack of his product. And, recipes. I’ll get some of them on the blog sometime soon.