A culinary Q&A with SW La. food artists

Editor’s note: Shalisa Roland, director of public relations at Visit Lake Charles, recently teamed up with photographer Chris Brennan to highlight some of the area’s top chefs. Their series of Q&A profiles is featured in the Fall 2022 / Winter 2023 Visit Lake Charles Inspiration Guide. Over the next several Wednesday’s these features will be reprinted here with permission. This is the first of six, on Villa Harlequin Chef Amanda Cusey.

By Shalisa Roland

Q: You’ve made food your life’s work, why?

A: I cooked for my mom when I was young and never stopped playing around in the kitchen even into adulthood. I’ve washed dishes, bussed tables, served customers, and cooked in many kitchens, but I never stopped moving forward. The ultimate goal was to cook in an upscale restaurant.

Q: How do you contribute to the culinary culture of Southwest Louisiana?

A: The Lake Area is rich and diverse. I contribute to the diversity of flavors by offering foods with Italian influences, cordon bleu training, and European influences.

Q: Describe the ambiance of your restaurant.

A:It’s the ultimate date night with a low-lit casual fine dining atmosphere. We don’t serve American Italian food, so you’ll experience upscale artistry from the menu options and each plate is embellished with traditional Italian cuisine.

Q: What is your culinary background?

A:Most of my formal training was earned internationally. I received my Cordon Bleu training at the Tante Marie Culinary Academy in Surrey England and worked with Michelin Star Chef Oliver Dunne as Head Chef at Eataly in Dublin’s City Center.

Q: Where do you like to dine in Lake Charles?

A: Everything on Area 337 LC’s menu is banging, but if Caribbean food isn’t your thing, you can’t go wrong with a meal from Calla, Pujo Street Café, and Buffi’s Peaux Boys.

Q: Use your five senses to describe your favorite culinary experiences.

A:I love the smell of fresh basil, the taste of roasted garlic, the feel of slicing tomatoes, the sound of fish searing in a pan, and the sight of a happy kitchen.

Q: Who is the chef to watch in Lake Charles?

A: Colin Nunez, my sous chef. He’s creative, and his desserts are flawless. You can tell he’s passionate about food because he pays attention to every detail.

Q: Have you ever dreamt of showcasing your cooking skills on a nationally recognized platform?

A: Ahhh, it would be cool to have a role on Food Network’s series Chopped? I like quick-fire challenges, so it’s fun to watch, but being on the show would feel like a dream.

Q: How did recent years alter the way you prepare meals and dining experiences?

A: Loyalty meant a lot to me before, but now, it’s almost everything. As I mentioned before, food was my life’s work, so I really appreciate the staff and community that stayed by my side and supported me throughout all the chaos.

Rapid Fire Questions:

Q: What’s currently on your playlist?

A: “So Good” by Halsey and “Coming for You” by The Offspring.

Q: Where is your happy place in Lake Charles?

A: Sam Houston Jones State Park.

Q: What brings you gratitude?

A: Bringing people together and rescuing dogs.

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