ALPINE — Red beans and rice, etouffee, jambalaya, hush puppies, crawfish boil and the po’boy sandwich are all examples of traditional and popular Cajun dishes. But there aren’t many places in Wyoming where authentic Cajun cuisine is on the menu.
Preston Yoke, owner of Mile High Cajun, brought Cajun food to Alpine, about a year ago. Yoke said the food he serves is authentic and scratch-made, but it's not "Cajun-spicy, it's gringo spicy."
The voodoo sauce Yoke created will test the boundaries of most gringos. It won't scorch your tonsils, like some habanero-based hot sauces. It's a special kind of heat that tempts you to have just a little more.
"Cajun doesn't scrimp on anything, it's right in your face," said Yoke. "There's nothing dainty about it, kinda like me."
Yoke's food truck, parked at the Alpine Civic Center on Highway 89, is the only place offering Cajun cuisine in this part of Wyoming, and one of only a few in the entire state.
"Our food is very different than what's available around here," he said. "We take the time to make everything from scratch which we do with everything except the mayonnaise we use, and the bread comes from a bakery in Montana."
Interacting with customers is one of Yoke's specialties. He's a charismatic fountain of knowledge on a wide variety of food topics. Being a food truck chef provides the opportunity to mix with customers because there is no separation between the front and back of the house like in a traditional restaurant.
"I'm in the business of making people happy through food," Yoke said. "Money has never been my motivation."
Yoke is classically-trained as a French chef and is a U.S. Department of Agriculture certified journeyman chef. He is from the Denver area and has worked in several high-end Colorado restaurants including the Broadmoor Resort in Colorado Springs, where he completed a 6,000-hour apprenticeship.
On The Menu
Specialty items that Yoke plated up for Cowboy State Daily to taste include the catfish po’boy, the shrimp and grits creole bowl, classic jambalaya over rice, and hush puppies.
The catfish po’boy is made with an entire catfish filet. It's the size of two normal sandwiches.
"I see people order an entree and a couple of side dishes and I tell them, I hope you've got all day because that's a lot of food," he said. "My food is good for the soul but not the waistline."
The catfish po’boy is a marinated catfish filet breaded in Mile High Cajun's signature cornmeal breading. It's topped with voodoo remoulade sauce and dressed with lettuce, tomato and homemade spicy pickles.
The shrimp and grits creole bowl comes with cheesy chipotle grits, shrimp sautéed in butter and Cajun spice, tomatoes and roasted corn salad that includes pablano peppers, onions and house-made tortilla strips. It's also dressed with voodoo remoulade sauce.
Yoke's jambalaya is the most traditional Cajun recipe on his menu. This rich Cajun stew starts with a peanut butter roux and includes chicken sausage. It's served over rice with a green onion garnish.
The scratch-made buttermilk hush puppies include roasted corn, pablano peppers and onions. They're deep-fried and served with honey butter.
Yoke said hush puppies originated in the South. To test the temperature of the frying oil they would cook a small one, toss it out the back door to one of the hunting dogs and say "hush puppy."
Red beans and rice were a popular dish among slaves in the South. Yoke said red beans and rice was a Monday dish because Monday was traditionally laundry day. This chore became synonymous with the dish because they had extra time to tend the stew pot.
"A lot of Cajun recipes are one-pot meal that take forever to cook," he said. "But once they're done cooking they're quick to serve."
In June he put on a crawfish boil complete with sausage, potatoes, onions and corn. He used 100 pounds of crawfish and sold it out in 30 minutes.
Working In A Food Truck
Yoke describes working in a food truck as hot, fast and loud.
"It's a hostile environment," he said.
The truck is open Wednesday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Yoke typically works from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
"My dad taught me to pay people more than they expect to be paid and they'll work harder than you expect them to work," he said.
A food truck park is under construction in Alpine. Yoke said by next summer there will be pads for several trucks and a pavilion for live music and other events.
He plans to buy a second food truck and operate both at the new park. The new truck will sell International tacos. Yoke's idea is to take signature dishes from several different regions of the world and put them in a handy tortilla.
Among his ideas are a German schnitzel taco, a Philly cheese-steak taco and several variations of spicy Asian dishes transformed into tacos.
"One of my goals is to see Alpine turn into a cool
, little, unassuming food town that serves more than just burgers and wings," he said.
While in Denver, Yoke worked at events where there were hundreds of food trucks and he welcomes the additional businesses. He says food trucks are a more affordable way for entrepreneurs to get established in the restaurant business.