Zack Hollier, creator and owner of Cajun Belle, making gumbo at a wedding last year.
Writer: Karla Walsh
Growing up in southeast Texas, Zack Hollier was raised in a home that overflowed with Southern hospitality. And food. Lots of delicious food.
“We had a saying, ‘Did you put your foot in it?’ This was a great thing, actually—a sign of putting your heart into the dish,” says Hollier, who moved from Texas to Des Moines in 2011 to play football at Grand View University.
Hollier is now sharing his favorite recipes from his homeland, the Bayou, at a new venue he named Cajun Belle (5460 Merle Hay Road, Suite A, Johnston). The shop opened May 2 and offers sweet and savory kolaches and coffee from 6:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.. Come late May, Hollier and his partners, Daniel Paiva and Kyle McClain, will add gumbo in individual and family-size servings with sides of rice from 4:30 to 9:30 p.m. All orders are drive-through only, for a “simple, consistent and unique” option to feed busy locals who are craving some comfort food, Hollier says.
“It’s like a little piece of home for Daniel and I, who were both raised in Texas. Cajun Bell is something I’ve really wanted to do for a while now,” he adds. (Hollier was previously part of the Coaches Kolaches team with Brent and Patrice Curvey. Negotiations on a new location for Coaches stalled, so he embarked on opening this concept that had been simmering on his internal back burner for years.)
“I grew up learning to love cooking from my mom and dad on the Bayou,” Hollier says. “I love making [the gumbo]—and seeing folks enjoy it. The oil and flour roux is the base of the gumbo, which gives it a deep coffee-like effect. The love part comes into play here; it takes 45 minutes to an hour to make the roux. I grew up on a dark roux. The deeper in the Bayou you go, the darker the roux.”
He also adds ground sassafras, the key ingredient in filé gumbo, which adds a different layer of smoky flavor. Two gumbos will be available most days: one stoked with andouille chicken sausage and another peppered with seafood.
Keep up with Cajun Belle online at cajunbelleia.com and watch for news about the launch of the dinner menu on facebook.com/cajunbelleia.