June 13, 2023

Championing Homegrown Success

WRITTEN BY

Cory Bahr’s status as a celebrity chef has been well-cemented since his Chopped win in 2012. On the heels of that milestone, he was named Best New Chef by Food & Wine in 2015. For nearly anyone else, those victories would likely be considered the pinnacle of success. However, if you want to see Cory’s eyes light up with pride, if you want to really feel the connection between his passion and his work, it won’t come from asking about either of those accolades. That comes from some place deeper, from a part of Cory’s soul that indelibly connects him to his home state, his community, the land, and the food he prepares.  

An Unlikely Destiny

Cory's current standing as a celebrated chef and owner of Parish Restaurant and Standard Coffee Co. in Monroe, LA feels like a perfect fit, as if it was always meant to be. However, Cory himself could never have foreseen this trajectory. Growing up in Louisiana, he experienced both the joy of delicious food and the hardships that life can bring.

“I wasn’t born to be a chef. I never even knew that was a possibility. Culinary school was never in my lexicon of thought, but I was always in the kitchen. I think this was more of a natural migration than a true path that I thought out.”

Raised by his grandparents, Cory faced a pivotal moment when he had to leave school in the ninth grade to care for his ailing grandmother. He never returned to complete his education, nor did he attend culinary school. On the surface, the odds against his success seemed insurmountable, but while he may have abandoned his formal education for his grandmother, she gave him so much more in return. Her expertise as a caterer, her innate hospitality, and her genuine warmth imparted upon him the skills that would later propel his career and establish his businesses.

“Just the sense of how my grandmother would set a table and how she made you feel when you were in her home - I think that graciousness carried over into what we do here. That sense of graciousness and hospitality, I gained that from my grandparents.”

A Louisiana Palette

In his younger years, Cory felt the pull of bigger cities and brighter prospects, but he quickly realized that no other place would ever truly be home. As he passionately shares his story, it becomes evident that his love for his craft is only matched by his deep affection for the place where he practices it. Whenever he speaks of his own success, he immediately attributes it to the people, the food, and the very essence of Louisiana. Although he has lived and worked in many shining cities, it is the warm glow of his home state that consistently draws him back, like the welcoming light of a front porch.

“My city, Monroe, has provided me with a palette to paint on. They accept the things I do. They’re appreciative, and they show their support. I don’t think I could’ve done this anywhere else. This is a grassroots business, built from the ground up.”

The people and the connection they share are not only the heart of Louisiana but also at the core of every step Cory has taken on his culinary journey. Bringing joy to others brings him immense joy as well, and the creation of unique and remarkable dishes allows him to do just that.

When Cory isn't immersed in the kitchen, devising new menu items, or engaging with his staff and guests, he indulges in another great love that Louisiana has bestowed upon him—the land itself. As an avid hunter and fisher, there is no better place to call home than Louisiana's Sportsman's Paradise. As a chef, there is no greater pleasure than sourcing ingredients from his own backyard. Beyond the confines of Parish Restaurant and Standard Coffee Co., you'll likely find Cory in a deer stand, on a boat, or tending to his personal orchard brimming with peaches, figs, and mayhaws—ingredients that often find their way into his dishes on the very day they are harvested.

The Recipe for Louisiana’s Future

While acknowledging that Louisiana and his local community face significant challenges, such as the food gap, Cory remains hopeful. He finds inspiration in the city's entrepreneurial spirit, the young and ambitious mayor, and the emerging generation. Recognizing the importance of supporting these bright minds and their innovative ideas, Cory actively contributes to helping Louisiana thrive and makes strides in nurturing their ambitions.

Mentoring young individuals in the culinary and hospitality industries is one of Cory's greatest passions. He appreciates their journey, as he never experienced the same level of guidance and support himself. Genuine care for their success drives him, and he takes immense pride in witnessing their careers flourish, even if it means the emergence of competing restaurants. Cory inherently understands that collective strength leads to greater accomplishments.

“My greatest achievement is being able to provide for not just my family but others.  I think having people in your organization, training those people, loving on those people, and them venturing out creating businesses and opportunities for others is probably one of the biggest feathers in your cap you could have as a business owner.”

In addition to being an inspirational figure for young entrepreneurs, Cory finds various ways to give back to the community that has steadfastly supported him throughout the years. When natural disasters like tornadoes wreak havoc on the area, Cory and his team step up by providing thousands of free meals to those in need. They lend a helping hand in clearing wreckage from damaged homes, and during the pandemic, they extend their support to first responders by offering free food. Whenever the community requires assistance, they can always rely on Cory's unwavering support, as he operates his business with an open-hearted approach. Because just like most successful, homegrown Louisiana entrepreneurs, Cory is Louisiana Loyal through and through.

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