Chef Robert Oliver’s Seafood and Andouille Gumbo
“My mom was an awesome cook and entertainer,” says Chef Oliver. “I believe I’m a better chef from her guidance and talent to serve delicious food made with love.”
Last February, to celebrate Mardi Gras, the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Atlanta held a virtual feast, starring a local Catholic chef, Robert Oliver. A Zoom event that attracted several dozen foodies, it featured chef’s seafood and andouille gumbo, and lucky participants got the recipe and shopping list ahead of time. That made participating so very easy, and participants said it was deliciously fun.
Chef Oliver was born and raised in Norwalk, Connecticut, but his family moved down to Atlanta when he was in high school. After high school, he studied communications at Georgia State University for about two years. At the same time, he was working part-time for a chef at Tableside restaurant at the Sheraton hotel and realized how much he really loved cooking. And he credits his cooking passion to his mother.
“My mom was an awesome cook and entertainer,” he said. “I would always love to help her cook for parties, family dinners and holiday meals and she always welcomed the help and input. She loved to create new recipes or find modern recipes that were new and innovative. I believe I’m a better chef from her guidance and talent to serve delicious food made with love. She always said the best meals were around the supper table and she always made sure we found time for my three sisters and Dad to gather as a family.”
He decided to attend culinary school after leaving Georgia State University and enrolled at the culinary school, Johnson and Wales University, first in Charlotte and later in Providence, Rhode Island. After graduation, he worked for many hotels and restaurants for about 20 years. Today, he is employed by Newell Rubbermaid in Atlanta.
As a regular parishioner at the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, Chef Oliver worked with the music minister there to come up with an enticing event to fundraise. They settled on a silent auction for the Atlanta Homeward Choir, with the silent auction being held on the roof of Newell Rubbermaid’s headquarters.
“There are many homeless men and women who come by the church,” he said, “and that is basically how I got involved. Father Henry [Gracz] said to come up with some fundraising plan. Because of COVID, we decided on a virtual cooking show to celebrate Mardi Gras and Fat Tuesday.”
Chef Oliver also volunteers to feed the many homeless who show up at the St. Francis Table Soup Kitchen in the basement of the church and the Morning Sandwich Ministry, both sponsored by the Shrine, and both aimed at feeding those in need.
“St. Francis Table started as a home shelter and during the winter it housed people in the basement of the church. And many volunteers helped to feed people and make it happen. Even various organizations dropped off foods.”
And Chef Oliver is grateful that his parents support him.
“My parents love what I good I do,” he said. “Dad really appreciates it, and Mom loves the idea that I am a chef.” He does cook sometimes for his parents, and cooks heart-healthy dishes for his dad.
“I make him soups,” he said, “and he loves my cooking.”
* * * * * * *
Chef Robert Oliver’s Seafood and Andouille Gumbo
- 1 cup cooked brown or white rice
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 1/2 teaspoons diced onions
- 2 1/2 teaspoons diced green peppers
- 2 1/2 teaspoons minced celery
- 2 ounces smoked andouille sausage
- 1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic
- 2 cups seafood stock or chicken stock
- 1 1/2 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 1 1/2 teaspoons Cajun seasoning
- 1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano
- 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1/2 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
- 1/2 pound peeled and deveined shrimp
- 1/2 pound white fish fillets, such as grouper, snapper or tilapia
- 1/2 pound fresh crab meat
- 1 cup shucked oyster with their liquid
- 3 ounces crawfish tails
- 1 ounce frozen cut okra
- 1/4 cup sliced green onions
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
Prepare the rice and set aside, keeping it hot.
Make the roux: Place a large stockpot over medium heat, and add the butter, slowly bring it to a boil. Simmer, and stir in the flour, stirring the mixture with a wooden spoon to form a roux. Reduce the heat to medium low and stir until the roux turns into the color of milk chocolate.
Add the onion, peppers and celery and stir to blend for about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and then add the andouille. Whisk in the seafood stock until fully incorporated. Then stir in the seasonings and simmer. Skim off the foam and any oil that rises to the surface.
Stir in the shrimp, crawfish and fish, and cook for 2 minutes. Stir in the oysters and cook for about 5 minutes. Adjust seasonings to taste.
Serve and garnish with green onions and parsley.