Wining & Dining
First Person with Chef Pat “Pat-N-da Pot” Darbonne
1/1/2020 1:00:00 PM

First Person

On December 12, 2019, Pat Darbonne experienced the "best day of her entire life.” She appeared on the Today Show, doing a cooking segment with one of her favorite celebrities, Hoda Kotb. The journey that brought this Southwest Louisiana native to that best day is not what you might expect of a professional chef. After high school, she worked at the Plantation House as a bus girl. She worked on a Mississippi River cruise ship as a cocktail waitress and stateroom stewardess. She worked as a janitor at Citgo from 1989 to 1999, then law enforcement till 2015. Though she’s always loved cooking, she has never cooked for the general public. But at Citgo, she cooked meals for the operators in the control rooms, much to their delight. That was the beginning of her career as a professional chef. And this feisty, independent, single woman has big plans!

When and how did you fall in love with cooking? 

Ever since I was knee high to a duck, I was always in the kitchen with Mama. I loved the way the food smelled when she was cookin’, especially when she sautéed onions. To this day, that is one of my favorite smells. I’d push a chair up to the stove, climb up on it, and watch her cook. I’d even stir the pot when she’d walk away from the stove. I cooked my first meal at the age of 10. My mother was sick. She had taken a chicken out to cook it, but she couldn’t get out of bed, so I took it upon myself to cut the chicken up, season it, and put it in the pot. It came out really good and I’ve been cookin’ ever since. 

Tell me about your business, Pat-N-da Pot. 

In 2010, I began posting cooking-related videos on my Facebook page. I got some followers and they encouraged me to start my own cooking show. In 2018, I found a few sponsors and the Lake Charles Local Access TV channel agreed to air my cooking shows. Once a week for three months, we filmed a show. I had to cease production because it was costing me too much money to create the shows with no income in return. But those 12 episodes can still be seen daily at 4:30 p.m. on the Local Access channel as re-runs, as well as on YouTube. On my website, I sell t-shirts, cutting boards with my etouffee and jambalaya recipes engraved in the wood, and glasses with my Drinky-Drink slogan. I like to drink wine when I’m cookin’. That’s how Drinky-Drink got started. My best seller is my signature Pat-N-da Pot Creole Seasoning – my own recipe. It can also be found at all 64 Rouse’s Market locations across the south.

So, New York and the Today Show! How did you make that happen? 

I’ve always loved Hoda. I’d watch her and Kathie Lee in the mornings. Hoda loves everything about Louisiana. She loves the food, the culture – a Louisiana fan all-around after living in New Orleans for six years as a news broadcaster. So I wanted to go cook for her. I started emailing her and sending her clips of my cookin’ show. I called the Today Show and they said the best way to get messages to her is through Twitter. So I did that. I tried to contact her for about 18 months, but it all fell on deaf ears. Finally, I decided I’d just go to New York and meet her. On October 4 of last year, I flew to New York. The next day, I went to the Plaza at the Today Show at 4:15 a.m. I stood in line, chatted with the security guards. Next thing I knew, security told me to grab my things and follow them behind the barricades. We went into the studio briefly, took some photos, and then we went back outside behind the studio window. When Hoda got there, I was standing there with my sign and my Pat-N-da Pot chef’s hat and coat. When she finally turned around and saw me, her face lit up, and she came outside to talk with me. I told her I had a cookin’ show and she said she’d have me come do a cooking segment on the show. Fast forward to December 12, and there I was. I made a chicken, sausage, and pork jambalaya on national TV. I also made a chicken and sausage gumbo and pralines for dessert.

What did it mean to you to have this experience? 

There has been nothing that I was more proud of and had more fun doing than being on the Today Show with Hoda and cooking for the niece of President Kennedy (Maria Shriver) and the daughter of President George W. Bush (Jenna Bush Hagar). 

What’s next for Pat Darbonne? 

I want to be on the Ellen DeGeneres Show – I’ve already written to her. I’d also like to be on Harry Connick, Jr.’s show. I want to be a traveling chef in a big charter bus and cook for celebrities and share our culinary culture with them. I love Louisiana.There’s no place else in the world I’d rather live. And I want to thank my family, my friends, and my fans for all their love and support. Without them, there’d be no Pat-N-da Pot. I’m going to keep on making them proud. This is only the beginning. 

If you’d like to follow Pat-N-da Pot, find her on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, subscribe to her YouTube channel, or go to her website,

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