If you’ve ever eaten a butterflied shrimp stuffed with breadcrumbs and seasonings, you may have just assumed it was another offshoot of the seafood dishes the South is known for. But in Shreveport, Louisiana, up in the northern part of the state, Stuffed Shrimp is a local delicacy hand-rolled to perfection.
For that reason, Shreveport will be hosting its Inaugural Stuffed Shrimp Festival on Sunday, May 12. The festival will celebrate the unique history of this Shreveport specialty with live music, games, food and cooking demonstrations of course. This family event also highlights the impact of Eddie Hughes, the creator of the stuffed shrimp, who brought his community together through compassion, dedication and deliciously-rolled seafood.
The history of this unique dish dates back over 50 years, born in the kitchen of Shreveport’s Freeman and Harris Cafe. The son of one of the owners, Eddie Hughes started working in Freeman and Harris’s kitchen at a young age. At just 17, he created the recipe for what has now become Shreveport’s famous Stuffed Shrimp.
Hughes went on to open his own restaurant, Eddie’s, which has been serving the dish for 41 years now and is owned by his daughter, Mavice Hughes. Eddie’s combination of butterflied shrimp, peppers, breadcrumbs, crabmeat and a variety of seasonings has grown from a local favorite to a national gem, earning accolades in Southern Living for one of the best soul foods in the United States.
“We are a mom and pop doing great things,” Mavice says. Their Stuffed Shrimp are even sold in local stores and shipped around the United States, although Mavice says it is difficult to keep up with demand.
Asked what makes their stuffed shrimp so unique, Mavice says, “It’s all in the hands.” Every shrimp is peeled, deveined and then tediously hand-rolled. Mavice explains that spices give the shrimp a little kick, and the restaurant’s special rolling technique, which has been passed down through the family for generations, makes these stand apart from other stuffed shrimp.
“This is Shreveport’s own,” Mavice says. “We [Louisiana] have lots of festivals. Crawfish, strawberry, you name it, it’s going to be a festival, but they didn’t originate in Shreveport. This originated in Shreveport, Northwest Louisiana, and we are just keeping it alive.”
Eddie, who passed away in 2009, was an adored man in Shreveport. His family continues his legacy through both cooking and giving back. The Stuffed Shrimp Festival idea grew out of Mavice’s daughter’s wish to honor her grandfather. Eddie’s birthday is this week, making the festival a fitting time to come together to celebrate family, friends and food.
The Stuffed Shrimp Festival is free to attend, but guests are welcome to donate upon entering. Donations and profits will go to the Eddie E. Hughes Scholarship Foundation, which sends two students from local high schools to culinary school. “It is truly a family affair,” Mavice says.
Celebrity host Darrin Henson, will be part of the entertainment, as well as more than 11 acts from local entertainers and bands. There will also be cooking demonstrations, so everyone can learn hands-on how to create Shreveport’s own Stuffed Shrimp. Additionally, Eddie’s Restaurant is partnering with Orlandeaux’s Café, a local restaurant owned by Mavice’s nephew.
Shreveport’s Stuffed Shrimp are a testament to the power home-cooked food can have on a community. The Hughes family, through hard work and care, have created a local specialty that has brought people from all over the country to Shreveport, Louisiana. They continue, throughout their successes, to honor the memory of Eddie Hughes with a family legacy that they can only hope will be passed down for more generations to come.
Photos courtesy of Stuffed Shrimp Festival.