What do the Northshore's favorite sons and daughters do when they're not working? Gambit asked a few of them what they love about their respective St. Tammany Parish enclaves and what they do for fun.
- Don Dubuc
Don Dubuc, "The Outdoors Guy"
Don Dubuc hosts The Fish and Game Report Thursdays on WWL-TV and co-hosts Paradise Louisiana on Cox Sports TV. He also hosts the radio shows The Outdoors Show on WWL and More Outdoors on 3WL. He lives between Abita Springs and Mandeville in an area he calls "Abitaville."
Though the Northshore has changed since Dubuc cleared 3 acres and built his home 38 years ago, he says the mix of urban, suburban and country living makes St. Tammany Parish a fascinating place to live.
"Where else can you legally shoot a deer rifle in your backyard, but the traffic at the intersection of your road and the highway is so bad you can't make a left turn in the morning?" he asks.
When he's not on television or radio, or hooking fish, Dubuc likes traveling the Tammany Trace, hanging out on the Lake Pontchartrain seawall, watching high school football and going out to eat.
"St. Tammany is the perfect place for someone with my job," Dubuc says. "It has forest, swamp and marine environments that offer a wide variety of fresh and saltwater fishing and every type of game from wild turkeys to woodcock.
"Much of my work, including live broadcasts, takes place in my studio in the woods, 'St. Hubert's Cathedral,' named in honor of the patron saint of hunters. Then it's also close enough for commuting to New Orleans and Baton Rouge broadcast media outlets when I'm required to be there."
Christian Serpas, singer/guitarist, Christian Serpas and Ghost Town
Blending country music with traditional rock 'n' roll, Christian Serpas and Ghost Town perform all over both shores of Lake Pontchartrain and beyond. Though Serpas has lived in several towns around the country, he calls Mandeville home.
"The people are very friendly," he says. "My wife Melissa and I lived in Los Angeles for a while, and guess what? Not as friendly.
"I love the small-town feel of the Northshore; it's country without being too isolated, yet we have all the modern conveniences without a lot of congestion."
When he's not making music and entertaining audiences, Serpas likes to take time to appreciate the scenery and participate in community events.
"The Mandeville lakefront is beautiful," he says. "We take our two Chihuahuas, Phoebe and Zack, for walks on the lakefront, and we'll stop by and sit on a bench to take in the view. The sunsets are fantastic.
"There's always some community event going on. We enjoy the art walks and festivals, and the local farmers markets on a Saturday morning are another favorite. I also emcee the St. Tammany Humane Society Yappy Hours at various local spots, which are not only a blast, but also provide opportunities for animal adoptions."
His top picks for musicians to see at local bars and events?
"I usually only get to see other acts if we do a festival together, but good songwriting always catches my ear," Serpas says. "Cowboy Mouth puts on a great show, and I enjoy listening to Zebra play a set of good old-fashioned rock 'n' roll."
Jan Biggs, director, Covington Farmers Market
Jan Biggs was born and raised in New Orleans, but she relocated outside Covington about 30 years ago. She started the Covington Farmers Market in 1998, and she sings and plays guitar there on market days and at other venues around town. "We play at the Wednesday market," she says, "but I play with different groups, sometimes at the Abita Springs Opry."
When she's not setting up tents or recruiting local farmers to join the market, Biggs helps organize the Covington Sunset at the Landing concerts, which take place the third Friday of every month.
Biggs says being a locavore is part of what drives her to improve the market, and her pledge to keep it local also influences her dining choices. "We eat at Del Porto (Ristorante), Lola, Toad Hollow (Cafe). We stay mostly local," she says.
What she likes most about the farmers market is also what keeps her on the Northshore: Both are community-oriented places. As for Convington, Biggs says she can walk everywhere, and "you get that small-town feeling."
Mark Salvetti, founder/owner, Bayou Paddling & project management director, Stirling Properties
At his day job, Mark Salvetti works in real estate development, but after hours he runs Bayou Paddling, an outfitter and guide for stand-up paddleboarders, both novice and experienced. With swamps, lakes, rivers and bayous scattered around the Northshore, Salvetti takes customers — including the New Orleans Saints — out on the water.
He says the Northshore is ideal for the sport.
"We have so many choices to paddle, that is what makes our area unique," Salvetti says. "The lake — any direction — from the Mandeville lakefront to the park to the mouth of the river by the lighthouse. You can paddle in the Tchefuncte River, which is wide and great to paddle on. The Bogue Falaya River is awesome for a slow, fun paddle. And the bonus is you can paddle past The Chimes (bar and restaurant in Covington) and get a beer."
When he's not busy managing property or paddling, Salvetti participates in other activities that promote physical fitness.
"My wife, Kristy, and I are very active in multi-sports in the area," he says. "I have been the race co-director for the Crawfishman Triathlon since I helped found the race in 1983. It has been a pleasure to help spread the healthy lifestyle of swimming, biking and running to this area and beyond."
The Northshore stands out from the other places he's lived.
"Compared to Baton Rouge, Houston and Southwest Florida, the Northshore has a small-town and family feel but with some of the more progressive entertainment and extracurricular opportunities of larger cities," Salvetti says. "There are three major health clubs in the area. For the size of the Northshore, that's pretty impressive."
- Erick Loos
Erick Loos, executive chef, La Provence
Erick Loos began his culinary career at John Besh's Restaurant August in New Orleans, and he's now the executive chef at Besh's La Provence in Lacombe. He lives in Mandeville but spends every summer in Provence, France, cooking at the Chateau de Montcaud, a grand hotel and restaurant surrounded by botanical gardens.
He likes living on the Northshore because of its pastoral setting, and he says it's a good place to raise a family.
"I lived in New Orleans for more than five years," he says. "I like the Northshore because it's greener, more spread out, it's more rural. I pass by cows, pigs and chickens on my way to work, not traffic and parking lots. The family-friendly atmosphere is very nice."
When he's not turning local ingredients into French cuisine at the restaurant, Loos likes to enjoy the outdoors.
"Mostly I spend time with my wife and daughter," he says. "The lakefront is a serene, beautiful walk to enjoy with my family. I also hunt as much as I can."
Where does he eat when he's not behind the stove?
"Lola in Covington (now closed for renovations); Keith and Nealy (Frentz) really know how to cook and love what they do," he says. "Char Lou's in Lacombe has the best burger on the Northshore. It's real and cooked with fire and oozes flavor."