BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) – Many people in the capital area love authentic Creole food. As of March, Baton Rouge foodies can enjoy these meals at TBeaux’s Creole Cafe, the first Black-owned eatery on the LSU campus.
Melissa “Thibeaux” Anderson is the restaurant’s owner. She wants guests to have delicious food and a little “lagniappe.”
Anderson described the lagniappe, saying, “There is Zydeco music when you walk in and there are Mardi Gras masks on the wall. There is an area in the back called the Tiger Den where students can write their names on the wall, to show that they were there.”
The cafe’s atmosphere is inviting for a reason. Anderson said her dream was to give LSU students a place of their own. She wanted them to eat great local food and feel inspired.
This is why the cafe has a special area where guests can write positive messages then stick them on a wall. She added that anyone who needs a little motivation can, “take a sticky note and bring it with them.”
The woman behind the restaurant
Anderson believes in generosity. For example, she was once in a series of beauty pageants and won the title of Mrs. Louisiana, USA Ambassador. After the contest, she and the other winners were invited to a weekend getaway. But Anderson was happy to take care of fellow winners during the vacation. When she learned that the other women were craving gumbo, she gave up a day at the beach to prepare a big meal for everyone.
This generosity is reflected in Anderson’s cafe. She will soon open the eatery up to student musicians who need a venue to perform. She will do the same for an LSU journalism major who needs a place to launch her podcast.
Challenges women of color face
Anderson’s desire to help others may go back to her personal experience with struggle.
“A woman of color faces the challenge of fighting for her place and being undermined at times. I’ve witnessed this firsthand,” she said. “For example, I’ll go to food events, and no one will speak to me because they assume I’m not a restaurant owner. Even though I’m standing next to my product and my face is pictured on the product, people will speak to the male who happens to be standing nearby, thinking he’s the owner.”
These experiences did not make Anderson bitter. She said they motivated her to work even harder.
Now that she’s the CEO of a restaurant and business, she continues to face challenges.
“The struggle has been funding the growth of the company and making sure it’s the best it can be,” Anderson said.
She’s had to decide between taking out a loan, paying out of pocket or bringing in other investors.
“The fear of the unknown is there,” Anderson explained. “You don’t know if it’s going to be successful. So, you’re jumping into something and you’re not sure it will work.“
How LSU’s Food Incubator Institute helped
Opening TBeaux’s has been an adventure, and she’s grateful for LSU’s assistance. Anderson was able to get TBeaux’s off the ground with help from the LSU AgCenter Food Incubator Institute, or FOODii.
FOODii is a resource center where entrepreneurs can start a food business, process foods and get expert advice on related topics.
Anderson partnered with FOODii in November 2020 when she launched her brand. Nearly two years later, a company called Ragin’ Cajun brands agreed to a distribution partnership with her. That helped her sell a prepackaged seasoned roux and gravy base that she’d created. Now, her brand is now available in several grocery outlets across the country.
“This partnership has also helped open several doors here at LSU,” Anderson said, “with my first opportunity being at LSU Tiger Stadium this past football season.”
Anderson set up shop with two concession stands during the 2022-23 football season. This was successful, and it led to the opportunity to open her first restaurant on campus.
TBeaux’s also was awarded as Louisiana Certified Creole in 2022. This certification is awarded by the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry to products representative of Creole descent and sourced, manufactured and packaged locally.
‘Trust your gut,’ Anderson advises
Anderson said her new goal is to help other women open restaurants. She advises any women who dream of opening their own eateries to trust their intuition. She said, “Sometimes the gut is divine intervention telling you which way to go.”
In addition to this, Anderson said, “Walk into the room like you own it. Positive thoughts are followed by positive outcomes. So, if you want to be successful, you have to believe in yourself and believe that you’re going to make it happen. It all starts with believing in yourself.”
TBeaux’s Cajun Cafe is in LSU’s Foster Hall, where the former Subway was located.
It’s open daily, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., serving Creole classics and fresh daily specials.