Five years ago, after yet another massive New Orleans storm flooded Kandice Hunter’s car, she decided she’d had enough.
Born and raised in New Orleans, the 35-year-old trans woman headed to Houston.
“I love that Houston has a lot of opportunities,” Hunter says. “It has a lot to offer. I love New Orleans, but this is my new home. I got a job as a general manager of a hotel my first day here. Where else could that happen?”
Hunter has a background in hospitality and comes from a family of great cooks. She loves cooking the Cajun food of her home, but when she went out to Houston restaurants she could never find those exact flavors. “I ate out at a lot of places here,” she says. “They tried, but the gumbo just wasn’t authentic. It wasn’t like home.”
So what’s a displaced New Orleans chef to do? Open her own restaurant, of course.
“I love to cook, and my dream was always to have my own restaurant, so I opened Voodoo Seafood & Lounge in June of this year because I wanted Houston to experience real authentic seafood and dishes from my hometown. I have a food-and-beverage background; I’d never owned a restaurant, but I knew how to run one.”
Hunter chose the restaurant’s name as a nod to her hometown, where voodoo and ghosts are as prominent as gumbo and crawdads. “Voodoo is magic, and our slogan is ‘Magic in every bite,’” Hunter explains.
Voodoo Seafood & Lounge sits at the end of a three-restaurant strip center in West Houston. It features patio dining and free Wi-Fi, with a definite New Orleans vibe indoors with neon signs and the smell of Cajun boils with succulent crawfish and snow-crab legs.
“We’re still adding to the menu,” Hunter says. “Crawfish is seasonal, so we’re expanding and adding different things. We have gumbos and daily specials, and a lot of appetizers.
“My favorite dish is the house special I created called Swamp Deviled Eggs.” Topped with fried shrimp, her creation sold out in an hour on the first day she offered them. The restaurant also has lobster tails and fried chicken on the menu.
“It’s been great,” says Hunter. “Besides the staffing shortage that everyone is facing, things have been going really great. The fun part about it has been the customers’ feedback. People drive here from all over, and we have some people who come to eat here two or three times a week. It’s amazing!”
Voodoo Seafood & Lounge is open late on Fridays and Saturdays with a live DJ and often live music, with drink specials. And, of course, there are watch parties for New Orleans Saints games.
“We have people of all ages come here,”
Hunter says. “And we’re definitely LGBTQ friendly. We’ve had some bloggers here that have given us great reviews, so our reputation is growing.”
Hunter’s girlfriend and some family members came from Louisiana for the grand opening in June, and they gave the restaurant a big thumbs up.
“We got busy, and my aunt even came into the kitchen to help out,” Hunter recalls. “It was a great time.”
Between running Voodoo Seafood & Lounge and a medical spa she owns, Hunter has little time for much else. She relaxes at her Galleria-area penthouse with her two pups—English and French bulldogs named Bailey and Lola. Because of them, she’s considering buying a home in Houston with a backyard.
She’s also setting her sights on expanding her nascent food empire, possibly franchising Voodoo Seafood & Lounge in New Orleans. “I’d love to open one there!” she says. And she might even start a food-distribution company for Cajun food items.
“I just want to thank Houston for accepting me here,” Hunter says. “Houston has been great to me!”
WHERE: Voodoo Seafood & Lounge, 2712 Eldridge Parkway, #101