Rocky Sonnier reigns as Cracklin’ King in Breaux Bridge, Louisiana.
by Erin Hutton
Rocky Sonnier whistles as he preps breakfast at Bayou Boudin and Cracklin Café, just as he’s been doing since the café opened in 1987. Cracklin’, uncured pork belly fried in hog lard, is always first on his “to-cook” list as the pork bellies have to fry for over two hours and he wants to be sure there will be cracklin’ ready for 8 a.m. breakfast service.
Sonnier is the Cracklin’ King, a title he won at the annual Cracklin’ Festival in 1987. He won first place in both 1989 and 1990 as well. “We were fortunate,” he says, “we haven’t been in a while though, been too busy here.”
He and his wife, Lisa, opened the café in part because they felt they could make Cajun food at least as good, if not better than, what they got when they went out to eat it. Their successes have proved them right; in addition to Sonnier’s title as Cracklin’ King and features in national media, they’ve received the ultimate compliment: locals often bring out of town guests to the café for good, traditional Cajun food.
With the success of Cracklin Cafe, the Sonniers expanded their business to include Bayou Cabins, the first of which opened in 1993 and now make up an eclectic mix. Each cabin has its own style, from a modern Elvis-themed cabin to a 162-year-old cabin built in the bousillage fashion of mud, moss and cypress wood construction.
In the café, 7 a.m. is a particularly social hour. Coffee is brewing, and guests are just starting to anticipate breakfast. A man with the last name Breaux, like the town of Breaux Bridge where the café is located, is dressed in blue coveralls and sips at a paper cup of coffee.
“I’m retired, but I still come here every morning to talk to Rocky,” he says. He doesn’t look old enough to be retired and actually looks ready for a day of hard work. “I still fish a lot, over in Lake Martin,” he continues.
Rocky cracks eggs in an irregular rhythm, simultaneously prepping three skillets for scrambled eggs. He calls women cher (pronounced “shah,” French for “dear”), “girl” and “honey” as they come in for coffee.
“Wake up, cher.”
“Coffee’s almost ready, honey.”
“Mornin’ girl, how are you?”
A sign above the coffeepot says: “Ici, on est fier de parler francais.” Here, one is proud to speak French.
Rocky shows off red and white crawfish tails. “I’m making seafood boudin this mornin’,” he says. “Dang, these crawfish are pretty.” It’s easy to tell that the seafood boudin is his favorite of the three varieties he makes. The other two are a traditional pork and a white bean and tasso. Both might end up on the Cajun breakfast platter or alongside eggs and toast.
Pork is a staple at Bayou Boudin – the natural casing for the seafood boudin comes from hogs, and the beignets are fried in hog lard.
Want to meet the Cracklin’ King? Just head to Breaux Bridge and look for the giant crawfish out front. Rocky, family and friends made it out of foam insulation, Play-Doh and fiberglass to escort the Crawfish King at the town’s annual Crawfish Festival.
Bayou Boudin and Cajun Cabins is located at 100 W. Mills Ave. in Breaux Bridge, Louisiana. Cabins range from $60-$90 a night, and a Cajun platter of pork boudin, cracklins, hog head cheese and homemade root beer, as well as a full breakfast in the cafe, comes complementary with your stay. The Cracklin’ Festival referred to above will be held November 11-14 this year in Port Barre, Louisiana. Rocky is a past winner of the Cracklin’ Cookoff held during the festival.
Erin Hutton is a freelance writer currently pursuing an MFA in Creative Writing at Chatham University in Pittsburgh. She enjoys travel, coffee and books and also hosts the blog My Green Palate. Her inspiration for this article came from a two-week trip to Louisiana for MFA students led by writer and Louisiana native Sheryl St. Germain.