When food writer and photographer George Graham and his wife, Roxanne, designed their two-story, four-bedroom contemporary home with tropical elements, they wanted to emulate resorts experienced throughout the Caribbean, Southern California, Europe and the coastal communities of Florida.
Vacations spent relaxing on sugar-white sandy beaches near sparkling waters gave rise to their seaside-style retreat in the heart of Lafayette. The project was 10 years in the making.
“Our design philosophy is based on our travels and the idea that the peace and tranquility of the perfect resort vacation is a lifestyle that we could live every day and share with friends and family,” says George. “To many, our design is reflective of the islands of Greece, to some it reflects West Indies architecture and to others, a Malibu-style beach house.”
Blurring the transition between indoors and out, the Grahams created an open, airy floor plan that extends seamlessly to an outdoor living space embellished with fire and water features.
Three kitchens equipped with commercial elements (main, prep and outdoor) were designed for the couple’s ongoing recipe testing and frequent entertaining.
George’s award-winning Acadiana Table food blog that began in 2012 eventually led to a collection of stories and recipes that were published in his 320-page cookbook, “Acadiana Table: Cajun and Creole Home Cooking from the Heart of Louisiana” (Harvard Common Press, 2016), which you can read more about on page 33. It is filled with creative recipes that serve the Grahams’ family well during the holidays, when they gather to celebrate around cozy fires as George stokes the grill.
“The holidays are a joyous time of the year for us,” says George. “Everything we do is side-by-side. Roxanne and I both grew up in tightly knit families that celebrate the warmth and love of the season. Our Christmas Eve tradition is chicken and sausage gumbo after church services. Roxanne is a whiz at making gumbo from scratch, and hers is the best I’ve ever tasted. Recently, I’ve been adding boudin sausage-stuffed quail to the gumbo, and it falls apart in the roux-infused broth to create a thick bowl of wild deliciousness.”
Interest in Roxanne’s technique for the rich, chocolate-colored dark roux that she uses for her famous gumbos resulted in the creation of Rox’s Roux, a product in retail distribution.
“It took three years writing the cookbook, and the first chapter is dedicated to my wife’s roux-making skills that have become legendary,” he says. “I was raised on a roux. My seasoned sense of taste, shaped at an early age in my father’s restaurant, is responsible for my adventurous style of cooking.”
His father, George Graham, Sr., owned the Acme Café, a 24-hour restaurant in Bogalusa that was popular for 40 years. Known for seafood gumbo and his mother’s fried chicken, the café had a soda fountain with a model 30 Hamilton Beach malt machine, a vintage mixer that George continues to use in his prep kitchen at home. It is one of his “most treasured possessions.”
The prep “back” kitchen has a restaurant-style pass-through to the main kitchen, which is anchored by a 60-inch Blue Star commercial grade stove.
The outdoor kitchen is equipped with a professional grill with infrared burners and an under-counter power burner for boiling seafood, among other stellar amenities.
Embellished with swaying palms and trickling fountains, the Grahams’ outdoor kitchen and tropical patio has a color theme that continues indoors.
From the living room’s white linen chairs and sofa accented with turquoise pillows to the glass tiles used in the master bath that are identical to the ones used in the turquoise-hued pool, the entire home has a tropical vibe. Roxanne selected white limestone flooring that flows from the kitchen to the patio to create the feel of sandy beaches.
Instead of entering the home through a traditional foyer, the entryway’s Spanish cedar arched double doors open onto a porch that runs along the side of the home. The path flows to a courtyard with a cocktail pool and fireplace, and continues to the outdoor living room and an intimate dining area.
On cold winter evenings, guests gather around the oversized white stucco fireplace in the living room and enjoy the intense aroma of Roxanne’s gumbo bubbling on a back burner. Others congregate near the outdoor grill replete with sizzling meat, and along the curved concrete bench facing a gas firepit, where George prepares his famous paella in a 28-inch diameter pan.
“On some evenings, we invite a large group and we’ll have all of the cooking areas going at full blast,” he says. “I recall one evening when we had over a dozen neighbors busy prepping and cooking numerous dishes for a casual, farm-to-table feast. In our home, it’s all about God, family and friends, and bringing them all together. Opening our home and inviting them to share in our love of good food has always been at the heart of our lifestyle.”