How do you make an omelette? Abbeville's recipe was given by the emcee of the Giant Omelette Celebration, Kathy Richard: "We have 5,031 eggs—one egg for every year of the giant omelette celebration, so this year it’s 5,031. We have 50 pounds of onions, 75 bell peppers, four gallons of onion tops, two gallons of parsley, one half-gallon of milk, fifty-two gallons of butter [...] three boxes of salt, two boxes of black pepper, and later on we’ll be adding Louisiana and only Louisiana crawfish tails!"
Abbeville started cooking giant omelettes in 1984, after three members of its Chamber of Commerce went to the omelette festival in Bessieres, France. They were knighted as members of the international confrerie, or brotherhood of chefs, and brought the omelette back to Louisiana, where the tradition continues. Richard explained, "Part of the tradition of the confrerie d’Abbeville, which is the fraternity of Abbeville, is the tradition of having our junior chevaliers and passing the tradition on to them."
The giant omelette is cooked in a twelve-foot skillet on top of a fire pit in the middle of Concord Street.
To move the skillet into place, the Maitre d’ Cuisine Jerry Terpening has to use a forklift.
Once the skillet is placed, the chevaliers melt the butter and sauté the vegetables before adding the eggs. The crowd watches every move as the chefs prepare the meal. Tucker Johnston, a photographer from Carencro, said, "I really like brunch. You know? And this is kind of a late brunch, perhaps."
Like many of the people I talked to, this was his first omelette festival, though the tradition dates back to Napoleon. According to legend, Napoleon’s army once camped for the night near Bessieres. Napoleon stayed in an inn, where he ordered an omelette for dinner. The innkeeper’s meal was so incredible that Napoleon ordered every egg in the village to be gathered and made into one giant omelette for his army’s breakfast the next day. The village began making a giant omelette every year to feed the poor at Easter—and since then, the tradition has spread to seven cities around the world, including Abbeville.
To stir the eggs, the chevaliers use long wooden paddles that are taller than they are, and look like wooden rakes. They stir the eggs constantly, synchronizing their movements under the direction of the Maitre d'Cuisine so the omelette doesn’t burn. The fire under the skillet is so hot, they have to work in shifts.
While they’re on break from stirring, many chevaliers dance to the traditional Cajun French music.
After about two hours, the omelette is finally ready. It’s spooned into bowls and served with bread to everyone who wants some. One of the people there was Linda Melançon, who said, "Their recipe is—they got it down really good. Every year the taste is wonderful." This is her twelfth Omelette Festival. Her favorite part is the crawfish.
After the omelette has been served, the festival’s over. Until next year’s 5,000-egg omelette, what we make in our own skillets will have to be un oeuf.