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Paul Prudhomme aids Katrina victims

Famous chef who traded his restuarant for a relief center plays 'Hardball'
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Since 1979, K-Paul's Louisiana Kitchen has been a smash hit in New Orleans' French Quarter.  The man behind the success is the world famous chef Paul Prudhomme.  While he is planning on reopening his restaurant soon, most of his time these days is cooking for free for those who are working to save the city he loves.  So far, he has served 6,000 meals in the last 10 days. 

On Tuesday, Prudhomme joined MSNBC's Chris Matthews on 'Hardball' to discuss the storm and the plans for recovery.

To read an excerpt of their conversation, continue to the text below. To watch the video, click on the "Launch" button to the right.

CHRIS MATTHEWS: Chef Paul, thank you for joining us from the Quarter.  You're right across from the Cafe Du Monde.  I love that place, where all they have the beignets for people 24 hours a day, practically.  What are you doing down there right now? 

PAUL PRUDHOMME, K-PAUL'S LOUISIANA KITCHEN:  Well, we're talking to you.


PRUDHOMME:  But, besides that, we are cooking for anybody.  And we're feeding anybody in sight.  If you're hungry, we want to feed you.  ... If you're in the military, we especially want to feed you. 

MATTHEWS:  What is the menu du jour? 

PRUDHOMME:  Well, you know, one of the best things about doing good cooking is rotation of the menu. 

And we're constantly rotating the menu.  And, as a matter of fact, yesterday, or Sunday, rather, when we did the big military event, I think we ended up with about five or six different dishes.  The most important thing about food, Chris, is that if it's emotional, if it gives you an uplift. 

And I will tell you, that's my job, to lift people up with great food. 

MATTHEWS:  Why do I love jambalaya, chef Paul? 

PRUDHOMME:  You love jambalaya because of the taste and the emotion of it. 

You know, good food has an emotion to it.  It makes you feel different inside.  It gives you a joy.  It makes you want to hug somebody.  It makes you want to smile.  It makes you want to feel good about things.  And that's the kind of food that Louisiana does.  And I'm so proud to be a part of it.  I'm so proud to be a Cajun and from Louisiana and that I just can't stop feeding people.  And I never will. 

MATTHEWS:  What is about the Quarter?  You know, I have been down there a lot in my life.  And I love it.  I told you that before we got on.  But it's an amazing gumbo of good food, good music, girly shows, and a few seedy places.  How do they all fit together?

PRUDHOMME:  Well, it fits together as a human switch.  When you hit the French Quarter, your human switch is changed.  And most people love the change.  When you hit that French Quarter line and all of a sudden, almost anything goes, as long as you're not hurting another human being, you can almost - almost -- do anything you want. 

And I will tell you, that's an allure to people all over the world, even when they can't speak English.  I have seen Japanese just having a ball in the French Quarter, you know? ...

MATTHEWS: let me ask you this.  When is New Orleans going to be cooking again? 

PRUDHOMME:  I'm sorry?  When New Orleans is going to be cooking?  As soon as the water is good, as soon as they give us back permission to get into our restaurants, we will be cooking again. 

MATTHEWS:  The president said the other night ... he said, this country couldn't exist without New Orleans.  Why is that true? 

PRUDHOMME:  Because it's-it's the best thing about emotion that we have in our country today is New Orleans. 

I mean, we have true emotion.  And it's because of our people.  People worry-I have heard, you know, people talking about the structures in New Orleans.  The structures are very important because they're historical.  But what makes New Orleans great is our people.  And when our people get back here, we ought to have a good time!

Watch each night at 7 p.m. ET on MSNBC.