By the time one o’clock rolls around on a Wednesday afternoon in Cary, Anthony Greenup is close to locking up his food truck, Baton Rouge Cuisine. The white, minimally decorated truck sits in the parking lot of a group of office buildings much like those found in RTP. Inside, Greenup stands tall, his head barely clearing the seven-foot-high ceiling, as he takes the last orders from the window. On the shelf sit three different bottles of hot sauce, framed by a series of photos plastered against the window showing Greenup during his time as a Harlem Globetrotter.
During the nine years that he played basketball for the world-renowned exhibition team, he traveled the globe, nicknamed “Airport.” He joined the team after playing at Raleigh’s Shaw University for two years. There, he led the nation by shooting 71 percent from the field. He racked up enough stats to become the only player in the division to finish among the top thirty in scoring, rebounding, blocked shots, and shooting percentage. (Named the Central College Athletic Association Defensive Player of the Year for the 2003–04 season, he did a brief stint for the Charlotte Hornets before he signed on with the Globetrotters.)
More than a decade later, the retired ballplayer wears his Jordans on wheels. Inspired by his childhood in Louisiana, Greenup and his wife, LesLee, started the Creedmoor-based food truck five years ago to bring more authentic Cajun cooking to the Triangle.
“There aren’t a lot of Cajun options in the area,” says Greenup.
The offerings consist of The Big Easy, a Cajun restaurant with locations in Raleigh and Cary, and LaPlace, a modern Cajun “cookery” in Hillsboroughslim Cajun options for a region that prides itself on having a diverse and robust food scene.
Greenup grew up in Baton Rouge, where gumbo and étouffées regularly simmered on his grandmother’s stove. He, too, learned to cook from his grandmother, mother, and sister, and those same classic dishes now appear on the food truck’s menu.
Back at the office park, customers sample them both. The boudin balls, a mix of pork sausage and rice rolled up, battered, and fried to a crisp, are a real hit. Each mound is about the size of a falafel. You can get three for three bucks with a side of what Greenup calls his “Who dat” sauce.
“You know, like the New Orleans Saints,” says Greenup with a smile, referencing the team’s chant.
A remoulade with a kick, the “Who dat” sauce is almost unnecessary for the well-seasoned boudin balls, but it’s a welcome addition to any of the other sidestry the fried okra or the chicken wings.
The crawfish étouffée comes in a Styrofoam bowl covered in tin foil, which visually downplays the depth of flavors trapped underneath. Rice covered in a gravy-like sauce with minuscule bits of green pepper and onion peeking through, the dish is both savory and spicy, with occasional lumps of crawfish that add an extra layer of texture to the meal. For those whose palates can withstand spicier options, Greenup offers a chicken and sausage jambalaya that leaves some customers wiping their brows after just a few bites.
Like many Cajun and Creole dishes, many entrees start with a roux base, infusing them with the home-cooked, comforting feeling of hours of work that result in robust flavor. Greenup says that cooking came to him almost as naturally as sports did growing up. To him, the business fulfills his lifelong passion for food after years of constantly traveling from one place to another as an athlete.
“I don’t miss being on a roll ten months out of the year,” he says.
These days, the father of two says he enjoys spending time with his family, teaching his son basketball, and hosting the occasional crawfish boil at home. And while many friends and customers have asked whether they will eventually open their own restaurant, Greenup admits that he appreciates the flexibility that comes with owning a food truck rather than a brick-and-mortar business.
“I used to be a different person on the court,” says Greenup. “I was intense. But in the truck, I’m a laid-back person.”
For now, slow-cooked food leads to a slower pace that the former basketball star has, at last, achieved.
This article appeared in print with the headline “Slam Dunk In Creedmoor.”