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Bring a taste of Baton Rouge to your backyard this weekend with the help of Chef Eric Tyson. He’s selling pick-up crawfish and shrimp boils out of Mess Hall this Friday and Saturday, so throw down some newspaper, roll up your sleeves, and try something different for dinner. Tyson flies the peak-season crawfish in live from Louisiana and cooks them the next day for maximum freshness.
Tyson moved from Baton Rouge to D.C. in 1998 to attend Howard University. After a career in sales, he founded his catering company, Très Creole, in 2012. While he specializes in Creole and Cajun food, his company has a deep bench of cuisines to choose from, including barbecue. One of his main gigs is feeding employees at Facebook’s D.C. office. Like other D.C.-area caterers, Tyson saw a high rate of event cancellations in recent months due to COVID-19.
“I wanted to keep my people employed,” he says. “I don’t have time to wait for a Paycheck Protection Loan. My mortgage still needs to be paid, my rent needs to be paid, and my workers—I want them to know I have their back.” Pivoting to selling pick-up seafood feasts means he’s able to “help the economy where he grew up and the economy where he lives at the same time.”
Customers can go online, order by the pound, and select a staggered pick-up time. In addition to crawfish and head-on gulf shrimp, there’s the option to add smoked sausage, potatoes, and corn on the cob. Corona, Stella, and Abita Purple Haze beers are available by the bottle, and Tyson accepts payment via Cash App or Venmo.
A family of four should order about five pounds of crawfish, according to Tyson, especially if there’s an experienced crawfish eater in the bunch. “Newbies might not want to go heavy on the ordering right away,” Tyson instructs. He plans to include a variety of sizes in each bag. “Buy a couple of pounds and try it. If YouTube isn’t enough for you on how to peel crawfish, just call me.”
The heat in crawfish boils typically comes from the cayenne pepper that goes into the boiling water along with the onion, celery, bell pepper, and garlic. “Prepare yourself for a little spice, but it’s not too heavy,” Tyson says. “I’m trying to make it so everybody can eat it. There’s a lot of fear that because it’s Louisiana it’s going to be hot.”
Get your orders in quick. Tyson says he’s only planning to do 300 pounds of crawfish to keep things manageable for his team. Bagging up pounds of seafood and running them out to cars is a new challenge for a catering company. He expects to serve 40 people on Friday and 40 people on Saturday, based on how previous weeks of sales have gone.
Customers can pick up orders at Mess Hall, 703 Edgewood St. NE.