Dreux Barra is challenging people to rethink the way they use the Cajun holy trinity of onions, bell pepper and celery.
Barra, 58, has created a ready-to-use, dehydrated version of the trinity that's quickly gaining popularity with home cooks — and a few professional ones too — in their favorite Cajun dishes.
"When coupled with water and brought to a boil, it comes back to life just like you chopped it yourself," Barra says. "And when I show that to people, they're like 'Oh my God, so I don't have to go buy the vegetables, cut them up, go through that whole process just to cook a small meal?'"
Barra, a Youngsville man who works in corporate security, stumbled onto the idea in 2016 as he tried find a way to use leftover vegetables in his home garden.
He had experience making beef jerky on a small dehydrator and decided to do the same with bell pepper slices.
"The neighbors didn't want to hear about bell peppers anymore," Barra said with a laugh. "And so I basically just decided to chop them up and use them as I needed them. While I'm chopping the bell peppers, I see that I have onions in the pantry, and I'm like, 'Well, they're going to go bad too, so I'm going to go ahead and chop and dry them up.'"
And what are bell peppers and onions without celery? Barra decided to pick up celery to chop and dry alongside the onions and bell peppers to see how a dehydrated trinity might work.
Barra quickly realized that the dehydrated vegetables tasted wonderful. For the next six months, he experimented with the ratio of onion to bell pepper to celery.
His mother, who studied home economics in college, was impressed by his creation but offered advice that made all the difference.
"Typical mom, she said, 'This is wonderful,'" Barra said. "But then she looked at me and said, 'Food needs color. You got green and white. You need another color. How about red bell pepper?'"
Barra remembers thinking that red bell pepper wasn't part of "the purist trinity" but decided to give his mother's suggestion a try.
"It was the missing piece," Barra said. "It added a sweetness that was missing. It took it to the next level."
In 2017, Barra decided to share his creation with the community.
He bottled and named the dried vegetable blend C'est Tout, which is French for "That's all." Sometimes, it means "That's it!" or "That's all there is to it!"
Barra started attending Youngsville and Lafayette farmers markets, where he would demonstrate how C'est Tout worked by cooking jambalaya, gumbo or etouffee with the dehydrated vegetables.
"I would hand out samples of a dish made with C'est Tout," Barra said. "It's good recipes to begin with, and it made a big difference when people can see it used in a dish."
Later that year, C'est Tout appeared on shelves of small grocery stores and meat markets in Acadiana. It's since expanded to more than 50 retailers across the state.
Although Barra has created about 8,000 jars of C'est Tout to date, he continues to work full-time as a security consultant.
His career started decades ago while working security at a department store at the Acadiana Mall.
It's since taken him across the country as he worked to solve crimes that involved merchandise at large companies, including Home Depot and Procter & Gamble.
Once, he said, a criminal returned the shovel used in a murder to a home improvement store. Barra said he was able to locate the shovel on the store shelf to help authorities build the case.
Barra said he's investigated everything from Los Angeles gangs to the Russian mafia.
"Those days are over now," he said. "That's for the young kids. I've been on the consultant side for a while.
Barra lives in Youngsville with his wife, Monique, yellow lab, Roux, and two rabbits, Bindy and Emma.
He spends his free time hunting and fishing and volunteering for Hub Ministries, which serves meals and services to Lafayette's homeless population.