SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – After 25 years, an iconic Springfield restaurant serving up classic Cajun and Creole cuisine is closing.
Chef Wayne’s Big Mamou on Liberty Street is shutting its doors in less than two weeks. Chef Wayne posted he was retiring on July 1 to his Facebook page Monday morning. When the news spread so many people came out to get food Monday night that Chef Wayne had to close early because they ran out of food.
“I’ve seen everybody. Guys came in and bought cases of hot sauce when they would buy a bottle. They wanted 12,” Chef Wayne Hooker told 22News.
Chef Wayne turns 65 on August 1st and is ready to retire. He’s said he’s losing the use of his hands due to carpel tunnel and arthritis, has had two knee replacements, and the stress of the pandemic became too much.
“The law says I can retire at 65 without an explanation. But I’m going to miss a lot of people,” Chef Wayne said.
22News sat down with him for an interview which is a rare moment for him as says he walks eight miles around the restaurant every day. Earlier in the day we found him jogging back to the restaurant with more food.
Chef Wayne told 22News his favorite memories are the people.
“I have three generations of people who come in. I have people who came in with their kids, now their kids come in with their kids,” he continued.
The front window of Hooker’s restaurant is filled with gifts from customers over the more than two decades and walls packed with awards. When it comes to his retirement plans, Hooker says he’s going to take up fly fishing and driving the golf cart while “watching the cooler,” for his friends.
“I support on a regular basis, I come here for lunch. I had my graduation party from Springfield College here,” Springfield resident, Regina Evans-Cox said.
Although the Liberty Street location is closing on July 1, Chef Wayne said his Cajun On The Go location in the parking lot of the 350 Grill will remain open and will become his new job. Cajun On the Go offers some outdoor seating, and you can place orders online or just walk up to the window.