The Bevel family's jumbo gumbo gathering

An inside look at Fran and Shane Bevel's much-anticipated annual Mardi Gras celebration



Shrimp and grits

Valerie Grant

With a click-click-click of the stove on Wednesday night, Shane Bevel begins making chicken stock. The stock is the first step of his legendary gumbo served at his even more legendary Mardi Gras party. The Bevels’ stove stays on for four days — until Saturday night, when the last baby has been discovered in the king cake and the boudin is long gone.

The tradition is born — and it evolves.

Shane and Fran Bevel have hosted their party the weekend before Mardi Gras since 2009. The first year, it started small, with 25 invitations to a Mardi Gras jazz brunch. Last year, upwards of 125 people signed the guestbook and helped themselves to 15 gallons of gumbo.

Fran, a grant writer, grew up in Monroe, Louisiana, where Mardi Gras parties were multigenerational affairs with lots of people and even more food. And that’s just what her party has become, particularly since the Bevels have had their own children, Graham and Ruby.

“I tell people, ‘Bring your kids! Nobody’s getting naked. It’s a Mardi Gras party, not a Bourbon Street party,’” says Shane, a commercial and editorial photographer.

Graham, Fran, Shane and Ruby Bevel // Photo by Valerie Grant

True, 125 people is a lot to fit into the Bevels’ 1,200-square-foot midtown home. Many bundle up and gather in the backyard by the firepit, which is a good place to be when Shane pulls the stuffed chickens off the grill.

Friends and family are comfortably crowded, sometimes turning sideways to shimmy toward the chafing dishes of shrimp and grits or to say hi to an old friend. The crowd has only once posed any problem: A couple of years ago the party was interrupted for a moment by a loud boom, the result of a broken floor joist. But Shane brushed it off, deciding it made a good story and added to the folklore of the party.

“I love feeding people and love cooking for people. We love having people at our house,” he says.

Guests serve themselves buffet-style from the Bevels’ dining room. // Photo by Valerie Grant

But secretly, Shane says, the party is a giant social experiment with a slightly curated guest list.

“We have a pretty diverse group of friends,” he says. “From people who live out in the country who I bird hunt with to people with the opera. I like to make all those people eat gumbo together, and then I sit back and watch. It’s really fun for me on that level.”

Many have been coming to the Bevels’ party for years, and for them there’s a comfortable familiarity about it all. It starts with signing the guest book on the porch and grabbing some purple, gold and green beads. Inside, the air is filled with the smell of gumbo and the sounds of Zydeco music, punctuated by belly laughs and squeals from kids.

About 125 people helped the Bevels celebrate Mardi Gras last year. // Photo by Valerie Grant

 

The making of an authentic Mardi Gras shindig

In the first few years of the party, Shane and Fran had many things, including the boudin sausages and king cakes, shipped from Louisiana for the party. But over the years, they’ve found good local sources. They buy a lot of meat from Hebert’s and Siegi’s, both places Shane recommends for authentic Louisiana food. And last year, they ordered their king cakes from Lassalle’s, a favorite Tulsa spot for classic New Orleans-style food.

Recipes and culinary inspiration // Photo by Valerie Grant

Shane’s gumbo is the main culinary attraction at the party. And it’s a process to make. First, he cooks a half-dozen whole chickens in his giant stock pot. To the pot, he adds spices and the Cajun trinity of onion, celery and bell peppers. The cooked chicken is reserved, and the liquid becomes stock. Shane keeps the fire on, but turns it way down.

He has learned to lock his dogs out of the kitchen — imagine that tempting smell for days on end — and to move everything away from the burners to prevent any safety issues.

The next day, he adds the vegetables, including “tons” of okra. Another thing he makes tons of is roux, which is added with the vegetables. “You have to turn your cell phone off and pay attention when you’re cooking roux,” Shane says. Back to the heat it goes for another 24 hours.

On Friday night, the chicken is added to the pot, and the okra seeds and some fat are skimmed out.

On Saturday, it’s time for the sausage and another long simmer to meld all those flavors.

“We put pounds and pounds of okra in, but you won’t find any okra in my gumbo. It cooks so long that it’s not a chunky stock,” Shane says.

Red beans and rice // Photo by Valerie Grant

Along with the gumbo, people go crazy for the red beans and rice and shrimp and grits.

“We serve them early, and they don’t last long,” Shane says. “When they’re gone, they’re gone.”

Other hot commodities are the whole, boneless stuffed chickens Shane grills during the party. Shane and Fran buy them at Hebert’s in different flavors, including étouffee, cornbread dressing and alligator sausage dressing. Shane grills these 8-10 chickens, and party veterans know to follow his trail when they’re taken off the fire. If you don’t follow him and grab a bite when they’re cut, you’ll miss them.

Boudin sausages and stuffed chicken // Photo by Valerie Grant

 

Cooking for a crowd presents unique challenges

Shane and Fran use a few recipes as guides, but then add their own styles to their cooking.

Shane’s gumbo base is a recipe from a friend, a food writer in Shreveport, Louisiana. Having that as a guide especially helped in the first few years of the party. He still follows the basics of that recipe, but it has been transformed into his own.

“My base is hers, but it’s also everyone else’s — trinity, chicken, sausage, roux,” he says. “Cooking gumbo falls in the same category as cooking a good brisket or the perfect Thanksgiving turkey. It’s less about the recipe and more about how much time and effort and care are you going to take to serve this thing to a lot of people.”

Shane Bevel grills stuffed chickens at his 2017 Mardi Gras celebration. // Photo by Valerie Grant

Mike Hays is a friend of the Bevels and has been coming to the party off and on the past eight years. Hays is the past-president of the Kansas City Barbecue Society and a champion barbecue cook who knows a lot about cooking for a crowd.

“It’s really a hard thing to do when there’s no RSVP or 6 o’clock seating for dinner,” Hays says. “But Shane manages it very well and has gotten better every year.”

Hays says he has met many friends over the years at the party. “It’s fun to sit down and talk to people who you’ve never met and maybe don’t have a common interest with,” he says. “But you can sit there and start a conversation. That reflects on the way that Shane and Fran are — they’ve never met a stranger.”

If there’s a downside to the party, it has to be the cleanup, and the worst job has to be the cold, sticky chore of cleaning the daiquiri machine on the back porch.

But such an inconvenience isn’t going to deter the Bevels. They’ll be doing it all again — same time, same place, next year.

Photo by Valerie Grant

By the numbers

1 Broken floor joist

8 People who go home with a baby from a king cake

2 Outdoor firepits

5 Burners required to boil 15 gallons of gumbo

9 Gallons (170-ish) of Daiquiris consumed

6 pounds of okra

12 Pounds of boudin

50 Onions chopped

 

Time spent making roux:

Roughly three episodes of “The Simpsons” (or one to one-and-a-half hours)

Amount spent on the party:

Why ruin a good party by keeping track?

 

Get the recipe: Fran's shrimp

Fran’s shrimp and grits is one of the first dishes to go at the party.  // Photo by Valerie Grant

Fran’s shrimp and grits is one of the first dishes to go at the party. Rookies who show up late might just miss it. She has made changes to this recipe over the years and uses it as a guide rather than following it to a T. It makes enough for a crowd, though Fran doubles it for her party.

 

Fran’s Shrimp

20     slices bacon, diced

5 (8-ounce) containers fresh mushrooms, sliced

7 ½   pounds shrimp, peeled and cleaned

2       cups sliced green onions

5       tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

5 (14 ½-ounce) cans diced tomatoes

2 ½   teaspoons Creole seasoning

5       dashes garlic powder

1 ¼   teaspoons ground black pepper

Salt, to taste

Dash ground cayenne pepper or Tabasco

 

In a large skillet, cook bacon until done but not crisp; add mushrooms. Sauté mushrooms until just tender, adding a little oil or butter if needed. Add shrimp and cook, stirring for 1 minute. Add green onions and parsley; continue cooking for about 1 minute. Add tomatoes, Creole seasoning and garlic powder. Bring to a boil and simmer for about 1-2 minutes or until shrimp are cooked through and liquid has reduced and slightly thickened. Taste and add pepper, salt and cayenne to liking.

Serve with creamy, cheesy grits.

 

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Sponsor: Nimrod Journal
Telephone: 918-631-3080
Contact Name: Cassidy McCants
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Nimrod Journal will host its annual Conference for Readers and Writers on Saturday, October 20th, at The University of Tulsa. The conference will feature workshops on fiction, poetry, memoir,...

Cost: $10-$70

Where:
University of Tulsa Allen Chapman Student Union
404 S. Gary Ave.
Tulsa, OK  74104
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Sponsor: Nimrod Journal
Telephone: 918-631-3080
Contact Name: Eilis O'Neal
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We’re serving up our new chef-inspired fondue and traditional brunch options like Alpine Benedict Cheese Fondue, French Toast Fondue, Avocado Fiesta Toast plus bottomless mimosas. Reserve...

Cost: Varies

Where:
The Melting Pot of Tulsa
300 Riverwalk Terrace #190
Jenks, OK  74037
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Sponsor: The Melting Pot of Tulsa
Telephone: 918-299-8000
Contact Name: Alex Cooper
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Are you staying in town for Fall Break? The Melting Pot is offering an extended weekend-long family special with kid-friendly fondue for the whole family.

Cost: $29.95 per adult | $19.95 per child

Where:
The Melting Pot of Tulsa
300 Riverwalk Terrace #190
Jenks, OK  74037
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Sponsor: The Melting Pot of Tulsa
Telephone: 918-299-8000
Contact Name: Alex Cooper
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Willkommen to four days of Oompah (or Bavaria or Oktoberfest) in Oklahoma with nationally-known German bands, authentic European foods, arts and crafters MarktHaus, full carnival and fun...

Cost: $10

Where:
River West Festival Park
2100 S. Jackson Ave.
Tulsa, OK  74107
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Sponsor: Linde
Telephone: 918-596-2007
Contact Name: Tonja Carrigg
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October 20th from 7 to 9 p.m. Oklahoma Performing Arts will host "A Night with Tolleck Winner" to benefit the OPA. The event, in coordination with the Atamian Gallery, will be the first...

Cost: Free

Where:
Oklahoma Performing Arts
718 South Elm Place
Broken Arrow, OK  74011-74014
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Sponsor: Oklahoma Performing Arts & Atamian Gallery
Telephone: 310-254-7149
Contact Name: Jack Price
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America’s LARGEST interactive comedy murder mystery dinner show is now playing at the Hilton Garden Inn Tulsa Broken Arrow! At The Dinner Detective, you’ll tackle a challenging crime while you...

Cost: 59.95

Where:
Hilton Garden Inn Tulsa- Broken Arrow
420 W Albany St.
Broken Arrow, OK  74012
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Telephone: 866-496-0535
Contact Name: The Dinner Detective
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Please join us for our annual event to celebrate and support the Little Blue House. We will have catering by Keo, a cash bar complete with signature cocktail, silent auction, and a dessert dash!...

Cost: $40-1000

Where:
East Side Christian Church
1438 S. Indianapolis Ave
Tulsa, OK  74112
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Sponsor: Little Blue House
Telephone: 918-978-9721
Contact Name: Linda Davis
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The Oklahoma Swing Syndicate (TOSS) hosts a Swing dance and lessons  The Oklahoma Swing Syndicate (TOSS) is the only UNESCO recognized dance organization in Oklahoma.  We are a 501c3...

Cost: $7

Where:
Community Center - South Minister Presby Church
3500 So Peoria
1/2 west of Peoria, on 35pl behind the church
Tulsa, OK  74102
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Sponsor: The Ok Swing Syndicate
Telephone: 918-450-691
Contact Name: Rita Robbins
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October 20th from 7 to 9 p.m. Oklahoma Performing Arts will host "A Night with Tolleck Winner" to benefit the OPA. The event, in coordination with the Atamian Gallery, will be the first...

Cost: Free

Where:
Oklahoma Performing Arts
718 South Elm Place
Broken Arrow, OK  74011-74014
View map »


Sponsor: Oklahoma Performing Arts & Atamian Gallery
Telephone: 310-254-7149
Contact Name: Jack Price
Website »

More information

The Fear Factory is Tulsa's newest haunted attraction.

Cost: $20

Where:
Tulsa, OK  74115


Sponsor: 75 Productions
Telephone: 918-947-9544
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The Mummy & Me dance is a Halloween dance for just the kids and mom. SORRY, NO DADS ALLOWED. We encourage everyone to come in a costume but not required. There will be a costume contest, scary...

Cost: $5.00 Per Person

Where:
Nienhuis Park Community Center
3201 North 9th Street
Broken Arrow, OK  74012
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Telephone: 918-259-6550
Contact Name: Nienhuis Park Community Center

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Are you thirsting for some fun in October? If you're feeling drained, bring your boyfriend/ghoulfriend and join the other children of the night for a show that's so funny, it's spooky. 8:00 p.m.,...

Cost: $8.00 ($4.00 for children under 12)

Where:
pH Community House
306 South Phoenix Ave
Tulsa, OK  74127
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Sponsor: Laughing Matter Improv
Contact Name: Jerry Henderson
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TU Theatre presents Man of La Mancha on October 18-20 and October 25-27 at 8pm. October 21 at 2pm,

Cost: 10.00

Where:
Kendall Hall
3102 E 4th Place
Tulsa, OK  74104
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TULtalk


QUIZ: Which Oktoberfest Beer Are You?

Take our quiz to discover which of the many seasonal brews on tap at Oktoberfest, Oct. 18-21, best captures your personality!

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Episode 6: Vanessa Hall-Harper, District 1 City Councilor

City Councilor Vanessa Hall-Harper gives us a debrief of why civilian oversight might be the next step to mend relations between community and police.

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From the editor: Only in downtown

I’ve had so many “only in downtown Tulsa” moments.

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An Insider's Guide To Downtown Tulsa

Experience downtown with these tips and tricks for navigating the districts — where to eat, get a drink, and find entertainment.

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Charitable Events: October 2018

Our social calendar is jam-packed for the month of October! Which of these worthy causes will you support?

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