This pandemic pivot has all the elements for a hit TV show -- music, acting, comedy and jambalaya!
By Sally Smithwick, Managing Editor
Chet Dixon grew up in Gonzales, Louisiana known as “The Jambalaya Capital of the World,” where he learned from his father how to make authentic Cajun/Creole cuisine. And it’s clearly a family affair as his brother, Chad, competes regularly in the world famous Jambalaya Festival which started in 1968. In fact, Chet’s story of acting, music and pivoting into cooking, started when he was 16 years old performing with The Jambalaya Singers, a show choir to promote the food festival that crowns "The World Jambalaya Cooking Champion" each year.
While Dixon’s Down home Jambalaya is his latest creative move, Dixon has previously established himself as a working actor, first in Atlanta and now in Los Angeles. Some of his credits include the current Netflix movie, The Prom, where he appears in a scene with Meryl Streep, Cold Mountain starring Jude Law, Nicole Kidman, and Renee Zellweger, the popular TV series, American Dreams, and he has aslo traveled to India where he has acted in three Bollywood films. In addition to his acting career, Dixon is a musician, songwriter and powerhouse vocalist that might remind you of the legendary, bluegrass singer, Ricky Skaggs. Around 2003, Dixon, a rather quiet and humble man in regular life, created a comedic alter ego for himself, Ray Don — a South Louisiana-raised tender-hearted, awkwardly inappropriate and unsophisticated country bumpkin that performed songs in music venues around Los Angeles and sometimes surprised audiences and left them crying with laughter as he stripped down to his American Flag undies.
But as an actor, performer and pre-pandemic Amazon warehouse worker, steady income has always been difficult to count on, and the COVID crisis made things even more difficult. Missing his home and family in Louisiana throughout the shutdown gave him the idea to start offering his Jambalaya as a new source of income as well as personal comfort.
Overwhelmed by the regulations and permits needed to sell food at farmers markets in Los Angeles, and without the cash for a food truck (which he hopes will happen when the time is right), Dixon operates as a one-man show and relies heavily on his community to host Pop-ups in their yards or driveways. On Tuesdays, he begins the process of promoting on Instagram and Facebook for his Saturday Pop-Up, and like any great new trend these days, word of mouth and social media are his greatest marketing tool for getting pre-orders for contactless pick-up. And he has it all dialed in DIY style with homemade logo stickers and even a storage closet he built himself from a crate he found in an alley in Beverly Hills.
Now that the world is opening back up, Dixon has found himself back on TV and Film sets, this time cooking up his down home Jambalaya, which is mostly made with chicken, sausage and pork, but he offers a vegan version as well for the growing number of people moving to more plant-based diets. He hopes to continue building his business with these types of clients as well as continue catering events and weddings, which he has also recently added to his pandemic pivot.
Chet Dixon is a delightful and kind human to interact with, so it is not hard to see why modern consumers, foodies, and supporters of local food are so attracted to the experience of picking up fresh, authentic Cajun food from the real deal himself. Much like his performances, friends and family have shown up and passionately supported his new business — they love Chet, and they love his food.
Dixon has great ideas for the future saying, “Ideally, I envision my jambalaya pop ups to be similar to my Ray Don shows, kind of like an event, perhaps without the adult comedy element, kind of like a South Louisiana culinary show with a bit of set design and some ambient cajun/swap pop music. In fact, I wrote the Dixon’s Down Home Jambalaya jingle.”
This all sounds like Netflix gold to us! Someone give this man a contract!
Stay tuned for next week's installment of this exciting new series. We have some fantastic new food businesses to tell you about.
Did you miss our last story from this new series? Meet the Dreamers that pivoted from music and photography to food and serving their community - all the while recovering from losing their food truck in a fire -- Dreamers Food Truck.