Cajun Twist founder and owner Teona Washington didn’t really plan on starting a restaurant -- but her gumbo was just too good.
Washington had no culinary background; she didn’t spend her formative years working in kitchens. What she did have were show-stopping recipes passed down through her family -- many of whom, including her mom and grandmother, still live down in New Orleans -- and a love of cooking Cajun favorites for friends.
"I was literally just delivering to friends' offices and stuff like that," the Minneapolis-born Washington says of getting her start. "They would ask me to bring as much gumbo as I could cook to their office so that their coworkers could taste it."
Since those trips to the office tended to take place on Wednesdays and Fridays, she called the fledgling business Humpdayz and made the thing official in 2015. As the project evolved into a more fully fledged catering service, it got a new name: Cajun Twist. And this summer, Cajun Twist will get a permanent home at The Trailhead, a new facility in north Minneapolis' Theodore Wirth Regional Park.
The name is a reference to the fact that Washington's food isn't just Cajun. She'll take any fare -- American, Mexican, Chinese -- and put a Louisiana spin on it.
Think Ya-ka-mein, essentially a zestier New Orleans take on ramen, which combines noodles, veggies, and maybe an egg with crawfish or shrimp or crab. (It’s also rumored to have hangover curing powers, something science confirms.) CT’s Nawlins Dog and Bayou Burger get a Cajun-style kick from Washington’s Creole aioli (creoli?), while the Creole Cubano pork sandwich comes with pimento cheese and Creole spices.
The plan is to keep the offerings pretty simple, and Washington says you’ll mostly find dishes Cajun Twist has already perfected on the catering menu -- the creamy, bisque-like Crawfish Etouffee, for example, or the shrimp- and chicken-topped Creole Chef Salad. And, this being the Year of the Vegan, there will be Louisiana-style plant-based dishes, too: "We want everybody to be able to enjoy and get that flavor without feeling like they're being left out." She’ll add seasonal items and specials over time, and Washington is happy to try adding her own twist to things guests want to see or are curious about.
Speaking of which: Yes, there will be beignets and cafe au laits every day. (“Everybody’s been asking about it!”)