“The culinary world actually chose me, not the other way around,” said Labron Alexander, Executive Chef, Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi.
Chef Labron grew up in the Mississippi Delta where he attended St. Francis of Assisi School in Greenwood. The school was small and students were selected to assist with tasks in the school cafeteria, managed by Ms. Rose Griffin. One of Labron’s pastimes included helping Ms. Rose make her famous peanut butter cookies for special occasions at the school.
“We usually took out the trash or washed the pans, but it was all worth it to have the chance to help Ms. Rose with her cookies. She took me under her wing, and that was my introduction to the culinary field,” said Chef Labron.
Later, while attending Tougaloo College as a Political Science major, Chef Labron always cooked for his friends and family. “I made hearty meals such as spaghetti, my grandmother’s pot roast and taco salad. The food wasn’t fancy at all, but it was always good.”
Each day when his classes ended at Tougaloo, Chef Labron watched Great Chefs of the World on PBS. On one episode, Chef Nick Apostle, of Mississippi, was featured.
Chef Labron said, “It was a light bulb moment, and I just knew I wanted to be a chef. I graduated from high school and moved into the next phase of life, which was college, but I didn’t necessarily have a passion for Political Science. I knew I wanted to be successful, as a lot of my friends were excelling in the military, at professional football, and in the field of education, but this was the moment I knew I was destined to become a chef because cooking was something I truly enjoyed.”
Shortly after Chef Labron enrolled in culinary school at Hinds Community College, his passion for cooking really took off under the tutelage of Chef Kathleen Bruno. And the rest, as they say, was history. He’s worked for the Intercontinental Hotel Group, the Malouf Family, the Governor’s mansion, and even prepared meals for the New Orleans Saints during their pre-season game in Jackson against the Indianapolis Colts.
Nearly twenty-five years later, Chef Labron is still enthusiastic about preparing Southern cuisine and, for the last 13 years, he has served as the Executive Chef at Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi. Through collaboration with registered dieticians, he’s seen the menu totally evolve from a protein with two starchy sides and bread to an eclectic menu that includes popular items such as spinach smoothies, vegan offerings, carrot hotdogs, impossible burgers, deconstructed salads, poké bowls, and a vegan play on Southern pulled pork using jackfruit. Chef Labron also routinely leads food demonstrations at Livingstons Farmers Market with Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi’s Health and Wellness team.
Chef Labron believes fresh food from local sources is the future and the key to living a healthy lifestyle. “With a rise in dietary restrictions and food allergies, people are seeking alternate options for proteins and grains and combination platters featuring smaller portions of several items. It’s my job, but also a pleasure to produce great fare that will help our employees and Mississippians meet whatever health goals they may have,” said Chef Labron.
Focusing on the details, staying current on industry trends, and, of course, eating at new restaurants when traveling with his family keep Chef Labron serving up the very best in Southern cuisine at Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi.
Chef Labron Alexander’s Catfish Croquettes, served with braised collard greens and sweet potato purée, are ideal for Father’s Day or Sunday dinner. For more recipes, visit www.bcbsms.com/be-healthy.
4 catfish fillets, about 6 ounces each
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon Cajun seasoning
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup canola oil
1 cup panko
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon spicy brown mustard
1 large egg, beaten
2 teaspoons hot sauce
1 tablespoon of sliced green onions
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon chopped garlic
Preheat a grill pan over medium-high heat.
Season the catfish on both sides with 1 tablespoon Cajun seasoning, salt, and pepper. Brush the grill pan with some of the canola oil and grill the catfish until cooked through, 4 to 5 minutes on each side. Remove catfish and let cool.
In a large bowl, add 2 tablespoons mayonnaise, green onions, mustard, and egg. Shred the fish with a fork and add to the bowl. Fold everything together, then add panko. Using a ring mold, form mixture into 8 small cakes. Add an outside layer of crumbs to the top and bottom of each cake, and set them aside.
In a large skillet over medium heat, add the remaining canola oil. When it is hot, add the catfish cakes and cook until browned on each side, 4 to 5 minutes total. Drain on paper.