Chef Aarón Sánchez's quick New Orleans shellfish étouffée

Chef Aarón Sánchez's Quick New Orleans Shellfish Étouffée

Chef Aarón Sánchez, judge on Fox’s hit show "MasterChef" and ICC’s 2019 commencement keynote speaker, returned to the ICC community earlier this October to debut his brand new memoir, "Where I Come From: Life Lessons from a Latino Chef" (Abrams Press).

chef with student

The memoir, which was released on October 1, features stories from Chef Sánchez’s early years and his career in kitchens, along with recipes that have a personal connection to his journey. ICC students and alumni who attended the demonstration were able to get their hands on a signed copy of Chef Sánchez’s book first, before being released to the public. Throughout the demonstration, Chef Sánchez offered advice and words of wisdom to the packed crowd of future chefs and culinary professionals who look to him as a source of inspiration.

The chef/owner of Mexican restaurant Johnny Sánchez in New Orleans, and author of two cookbooks, learned how to cook at an early age from his mother, and famed restaurateur, Zarela Martinez. One of the world’s most distinguished Latin chefs, Chef Sánchez is passionate about preserving his family’s legacy through food and encouraging diversity in the kitchen. To celebrate his heritage and New Orleans roots, Chef Sánchez demonstrated his Quick New Orleans Shellfish Étouffée — the very first dish he cooked for his mother at a dinner party after his culinary training.

chef with students

At the demonstration, current Professional Culinary Arts students Yan Torres and Alejandro Castellon assisted Chef Sánchez in making his Étouffée. Yan and Alejandro, who are from Puerto Rico and New Orleans respectively, are the 2018 recipients of The Aarón Sánchez Scholarship Fund’s full tuition scholarships to ICC. The Aarón Sánchez Scholarship Fund was launched to help the next generation of Latino chefs and leaders, and ICC is proud to partner with Chef Sánchez’s initiative to provide high quality culinary education for these future culinary professionals.

Below, get the recipe for Chef Sánchez’s Étouffée and check out the photos from the demonstration!
Pro-tip from Chef Sánchez: When creating your roux, make sure it turns a dark blond color for more flavor.




Serves 4 to 6


  • ¼ cup (½ stick) unsalted butter
  • ¼ cup (30 g) all-purpose flour
  • ½ yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • ¼ cup (60 g) tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon sweet paprika
  • ½ teaspoon celery seed
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 cups (480 ml) seafood stock
  • 1½ to 2 pounds (680 to 900 g/21 to 25 medium to large) shelled and deveined shrimp, crawfish tails, lump crabmeat, or a combination
  • 2 cups (240 g) cooked white rice
  • 4 green onions, thinly sliced
  • Hot sauce for serving (Chef Sánchez uses Crystal, from Louisiana)


  1. In a Dutch oven or large cast-iron skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. When it stops bubbling, adjust the heat to medium-low and stir in the flour. Cook, stirring regularly, until it’s smoothed out a bit and is a dark blond color.
  2. Stir in the onion, bell pepper, celery, and salt. Adjust the heat to medium and sauté until the onion is translucent and the vegetables begin to soften, 5 to 8 minutes. Stir in the garlic, tomato paste, thyme, spices, and bay leaf and toast them for a minute or two.
  3. When the tomato paste no longer smells raw, pour in the stock and bring to a simmer. Cook for 5 to 10 minutes, until the stock has thickened slightly but is still actively, rapidly simmering, then fold in the seafood. Careful not to overcook — it’ll only need 3 to 5 minutes — and remove the Dutch oven from the heat when the meat is opaque but still tender.
  4. Ladle the étouffée over scoops of warm or room temperature white rice and top with fresh green onions and hot sauce.

This recipe was originally published by the International Culinary Center (ICC), founded as The French Culinary Institute (FCI). In 2020, ICE and ICC came together on one strong and dynamic national platform at ICE's campuses in New York City and Los Angeles. Explore your culinary education where the legacy lives on.

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