Celebrity chef Paul Prudhomme, portly Cajun who popularized Louisiana cuisine, dies at 75

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New Orleans chef Paul Prudhomme speaks with CNN's Anderson Cooper about the resiliancy of New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina.

NEW ORLEANS, Louisianna – Paul Prudhomme, the Cajun who popularized spicy Louisiana cuisine and became one of the first American restaurant chefs to achieve worldwide fame, died Thursday. He was 75.

Tiffanie Roppolo, the CFO of Prudhomme’s businesses, told The Associated Press that he died early Thursday after a brief illness.

Prudhomme became prominent in the early 1980s, soon after opening K-Paul’s Louisiana Kitchen, a French Quarter diner that served the meals of his childhood.

He had no formal training, but sparked a nationwide interest in Cajun food by serving dishes — gumbo, etouffee and jambalaya — that were virtually unknown outside Louisiana.

The distinctly American chef became a sensation at a time when the country’s top restaurants served virtually nothing but European food.