By KEVIN CHIRI
Slidell news bureau
SLIDELL — When Al Copeland got extremely ill near the end of his life in 2008, there was something very special he wanted to tell his second child, Bonnie.
“He told me, ‘don’t let the recipes die. And I promised him I wouldn’t ever let them die,’” Bonnie Copeland said.
Today, many of the recipes that helped Al Copeland build perhaps the greatest food and restaurant empire in the New Orleans area still live on, right here in Slidell.
Bonnie C’s is a restaurant that celebrated one year in Slidell this past week, at its 1768 Front St. location. On hand for the big party were many family relatives, including Al Copeland, Jr., the first born to his father out of nine children.
Bonnie Copeland, who retained the famous last name although marrying Tim Thompson, did just as she promised her father and is keeping alive the family recipes, which are featured on the menu at Bonnie C’s.
“So much of what we do here are recipes I kept that began from my grandmother and grandfather, who were fabulous cooks,” she said.
Tim fit perfectly in the family since he came from a family of great cooks as well, from an Italian descent, adding his Italian recipes with Bonnie’s Cajun recipes.
Bonnie said that she was one of the Copeland children to always enjoy helping in the kitchen, learning the recipes that came from her grandparents, and some that Al Copeland used to start Copeland’s, and then create the famous fried chicken at Popeye’s.
“Anytime I attend a function, they want me to cook,” she said with a laugh. “We always have so many people when we get together that I never cook for one or two. I usually make red beans with a huge pot and a paddle.”
Bonnie and Tim moved to Slidell in 2006 and realized this was the perfect place for a restaurant. Tim had already been a cook most of his adult life, first with the Marines, and then with a restaurant in Diamondhead.
He opened his first Slidell restaurant with Paradise Café before Hurricane Katrina halted that effort. His father was well-known in Slidell for owning Avanti’s Clothing Store for 18 years, but once he and Bonnie were together, it was all about cooking for a living.
“We always had a vision to open in a small town and we knew Slidell was a perfect place. Bonnie C’s is a mom and pop restaurant and that’s exactly what we want it to be,” she said. “We like to see people come here, and take 10 minutes to walk around the restaurant and say hello to their friends, before they finally sit down to eat.”
Bonnie was like most the Copeland children. Her father had them working at restaurants at an early age.
“I was working at the age of 14. Daddy made us mix spices for the restaurants before we did our homework,” she said with a laugh. “I owned and operated my first restaurant when I was 18. Anyone who thinks the Copeland kids had it easy really doesn’t know us. Daddy expected more out of us than anyone and we worked hard in his restaurants.”
Now with Bonnie C’s, Tim and Bonnie highlight the fact that every dish is cooked from scratch.
“Everything we do is from fresh food, and done from scratch,” Bonnie said. “I even make our banana pudding at my house from scratch for each day.”
She said she never wanted to take advantage of the Copeland’s name to make her own way, hence, “Bonnie C’s” instead of using “Copeland” in the restaurant name.
Reservations are requested for evening dining by calling 288-5061.