Culinary husband and wife team Kenneth and Tondra Gaspard met while working in a New Orleans restaurant. After many years of cooking together, they are bringing their Louisiana roots to Longmont.
The couple’s catering company, the New Orleans Chefs of Colorado, offers Creole and Cajun classics such as gumbo and po boys. The menu also includes plenty of “vegan soul food” options.
Both Kenneth and Tondra were born in New Orleans. They are enthusiastic to bring their hometown flavors to the Boulder and Denver regions, and share the cultural influences that make the cuisine unique.
“We're very excited to bring all of these dishes because Louisiana is a melting pot. You know, it's owned by the Spaniards. It was owned by the French, there's a lot of African heritage and Native American culture and all of these different cultures are married into our food,” Tondra said. “That's what Louisiana is known for — their great food, especially in New Orleans.”
The new culinary concept honors New Orleans in the names of its dishes. Associations are apparent in the Bayou Fried Fish, Bourbon Street Burger and Tchoupitoulas Grilled Salmon, which refers to the name of a street and tribe.
The Gaspards founded the New Orleans Chefs of Colorado as a catering and traveling chef business after going through the Fall 2021 business accelerator at Longmonts’s Entrepreneurship for All (EforAll). But they are laying down a foundation for a future sit-down restaurant by starting a ghost kitchen.
With their grand opening set for May 21, the New Orleans Chefs of Colorado will rotate between two Longmont commercial kitchens Tuesday through Saturday 11a.m. to 5 p.m. They are at the Elks Lodge at 306 Coffman Street Tuesday through Thursdays. On Fridays and Saturdays, the ghost kitchen will operate out of Salad Ground at 1850 Industrial Circle. Customers can order through their site, which uses GrubHub and UberEats for its pickup and delivery orders.
The Gaspards have more than 50 years combined professional culinary and hospitality experience, all stemming from their hometown New Orleans. Kenneth, who was born and raised in the city, learned how to cook from his grandmother. He said he started working in the kitchen in his late teens and has been there ever since. Tondra was born in New Orleans, but moved around after the age of 10 since her mom was in the military. She said she started in the kitchen young, but didn’t think to make it a career path until later. After college and serving in the Navy, Tondra realized she loved cooking and went to culinary school.
After meeting in the kitchen of a steakhouse and seafood restaurant, the chefs continued working together including at the wedding venue where they got married.
“We always worked together and we'd like to give our new hometown Longmont a little bit of all of that,” Tondra said.
The Gaspards moved with their family to Longmont after Kenneth was experiencing kidney failure, and said he was looking at moving to Colorado or California for treatment. He had a transplant less than two years ago, and said he recovered enough to get back to what he loves.
“Right now I’m healthy and moving forward,” Kenneth said. “It’s a blessing to be here today and my state physically, being physically able to do what I do so I'm blessed and my wife has been by my side from day one.”
Kenneth said he started thinking about the food he ate after going through his medical experience and wanted to introduce healthier options to the New Orleans Chefs of Colorado menu. There’s only one menu item, the traditional version of its gumbo, that contains red meat. Some main dishes with alternative proteins include the chicken/turkey based gumbo, Ken’s Kickin Fried Chicken or its po-boys which come in fried or grilled shrimp or fish.
Tondra, being on a plant-based diet for more than 20 years, developed vegan options. The vegan po-boy replaces seafood with grilled mushrooms, bell peppers, jalapenos and onions. The Bourbon Street Burger is a vegan patty with similar vegetables as the po-boy and topped with mixed greens and tomato. There are side dish options that are vegan with its red beans and rice and garden salad, which are also gluten free.
The ghost kitchen operation is a stepping stone to the Gaspards’ aspirations. Eventually, they hope to open a restaurant in town. For now they are enjoying the growth and sharing their food.
“I would like to grow wherever we're at with the community. Because that's where it starts in the community,” Kenneth said.