Displaced by Hurricane Katrina, mother and son now cook for a living

Published 9:51 pm Thursday, January 28, 2010

Five years ago, Beau Battaglia lived in Louisiana’s St. Bernard Parish, about one minute’s distance from New Orleans. At that time he managed a restaurant kitchen and worked a second job as supervisor of security for a major hotel chain.

But one August morning, Battaglia’s life was forever changed when surging waters from Hurricane Katrina destroyed everything he owned. This would set him on a course that would end in Chilton County.

“We lost everything. I came with a shirt on my back, and I had one extra shirt. That was it,” he said.

With 4 feet of water flooding the upstairs level of his home, Battaglia’s family was left without an option. His mother, Diane Knighten, was looking on the Internet for a place to relocate and found a piece of property in Chilton County.

“She loved it,” he recalled.

Battaglia began dabbling in cooking while he worked as a delivery driver in Louisiana. Shortly after that, he took a job as a delivery manager for a chain restaurant, Café Roma.

“I had free time on my hands, so they wanted me to cook a little bit,” he said.

Watching full-time cooks prepare meals and getting to work in a kitchen inspired Battaglia. He accepted a position as kitchen manager at Ben’s Pizza in Meraux.

“I would go out to eat, and when I found something I liked, I would ask the cook what he did,” he said.

He worked at Ben’s for about five years, until the storm hit.

Arriving in Clanton, Battaglia found little more than fast food establishments. With his experience, it soon became clear what he wanted to do — open up a restaurant. On Dec. 2, 2008, he opened Beau’s Po Boys & Pizza in Clanton. Since then, he and his mother have cooked their own recipes, many of which call for ingredients found only in New Orleans.

Original homemade recipes include gumbo, onion rings, corn and crawfish chowder, four flavors of wing sauces, fried green tomatoes, olive salad, and — of course — pizza.

“It was all our recipes together,” Battaglia said.

His favorite dish is the roast beef po boy, while her favorites are the onion rings and hot sausage sandwich.

“I never worked in a restaurant before,” admitted Knighten, who also works as a travel agent.

Beau’s is located on Sixth Street in Clanton.