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Paul Prudhomme, Celebrity Chef, Dies at 75

He's the man who brought Cajun and Creole cuisine to the masses

Jessica Roy

The world of cuisine is taking a moment of silence right for Paul Prudhomme.

The celebrity chef died Thursday at the age of 75 following a brief illness. Over the course of his career, he elevated the food and recipes of his native Louisiana to a globally recognized form of haute cuisine. In addition to launching multiple restaurants, he created custom spice mixes and hot sauces and wrote cookbooks.

Prudhomme was the 13th child of sharecroppers in Opelousas, a city about 20 miles north of Lafayette, La. He opened his first restaurant, a burger drive-in, in 1957.

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Prudhomme -- who at one point weighed more than 500 pounds, but later slimmed down to 200 -- championed fresh ingredients, authentic spice blends, and recipes he grew up making in the kitchen with his mother.In 1980, France named him a Chevalier (Knight) of the Order of Agricultural Merit for his contributions to Cajun and Creole cuisine.

In 1984, the cookbook Paul Prudhomme's Louisiana Kitchen shot to the top of the bestseller list, becoming one of the first-ever major cookbooks, and turning him into one of America's first "celebrity chefs." Over the course of his career, he launched numerous restaurants, as well as careers: One of his early hires was Emeril Lagasse.