Bayou Bros Cajun Boils May Be the Only Mobile Kitchen Licensed by the State to Cook Seafood Live

Kenny Crowell drove his cart some 2,000 miles from Texas to Oregon during a midpandemic ice storm.

Bayou Bros (Courtesy Bayou Bros)

However many food trucks around town promise down-home authenticity, Bayou Bros Cajun Boils owner-operator Kenny Crowell believes his specially designed cart, located in Oregon City, is still the only mobile kitchen licensed by the state to cook seafood live, as the Cajun gods demand. If anything, Crowell’s locally caught Dungeness and Gulf Coast crawfish, can be a bit too live.

“A lot of different things can happen,” explains Kenny’s wife, Heather. “First time doing crabs at this pop-up, my sister-in-law’s cutting the rubber bands off their [pincers] when the crabs get loose. All of a sudden, one of them has picked up the knife, and he’s holding it in his claw while running away.”

A love of food runs deep for the Crowells. Although Portland émigré Heather began dating Louisianan Kenny when both lived near Dallas, they were eager to trade the “big chain restaurant”-dominated Texas suburbs for a more hospitable food culture, and soon moved to Portland to start a family.

Adopted as a baby, Kenny Crowell first met his half-brother as an adult after he took a DNA test. When his newly discovered sibling eventually traveled to Portland for a visit, the two began trading recipes almost immediately. At some point during the round-the-clock culinary frenzy, the idea for Bayou Bros was born, and Kenny dove headlong into replicating the magical flavors of his Louisiana youth, however fierce the opposition from man and nature.

Crowell swears by the necessity of infused seasoning in fresh boils, but that meant arranging special permits to import the invasive red swamp crayfish, wheedling the befuddled health inspector for approval, designing a food cart able to meet his needs while satisfying municipal oversight, and driving the cart he found in Texas some 2,000 miles back to Oregon during a midpandemic ice storm.

“Pretty good trip, actually,” Crowell recalls, “until the rear end gives out near Sisters. When the tow truck does come, they can’t let us ride along because of COVID, and we end up stranded on the side of the road in the high desert.”

Undaunted, the Crowells have kept the Bayou Bros dream rolling along, and as much as he’d enjoy owning a traditional restaurant, Kenny Crowell appreciates having a movable boil.

“I’d love to get some place where you can sit and have beverages, but I’d always want the cart to be mobile,” he says. “Everywhere we go, we find people who’ve never even heard of some of what we serve, and if I can help them try my food and experience our culture, that’s why I’m here.”

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