Riddle me this. What does downtown have in common with an alligator? Before recently, nothing at all. That has now changed with Big Pops Fresh Seafood, soon to be located at the former KCS Cafe building at 830 Louisiana Street.
Larry Keith Burt is ‘Big Pops.’ For a time, Larry was known as ‘Pops’ to all the neighborhood kids in Broadmoor and Larry was then a big man, topping the scales at 290, hence ‘Big Pops.’ In the early 2000s, Larry retired from his life of trucking and moved to Missouri, and it was there that life took an unusual twist. He liked living in the ‘Show Me’ state, but he missed access to fresh Louisiana seafood and so did others that he spoke to. He sourced fresh Louisiana seafood and crawfish and started selling it at the year-round Farmers’ Market of the Ozarks. He was a hit. Then on one cold, snowy December day, a day Larry calls ‘colder than the devil’, a man asked Larry if he could provide 100,000 pounds of alligator a year.
Larry says his mother always told him to say ‘yes’ when anyone asked if he could do something, so Larry said ‘yes.’ The man inquiring was a buyer for Bass Pro Shops, and by 2016, Big Pops had become the provider of alligator bites to every Bass Pro and Cabela’s in the U.S. and Canada.
Along the way, other people started asking to buy alligator, both whole ‘gators and just meat. Larry had already found a supplier, a farm in Louisiana that grows gators as organically as a gator can grow- with no steroids, antibiotics or hormones- and his gator had become a certified Cajun Louisiana product. During my conversation with Larry, I asked several universal questions that I think you are asking right now, too.
Liz/ ‘Larry, what does alligator taste like, and please don’t tell me chicken.’
Larry/”Liz, it tastes a little like chicken, haha. It is a lean, mild meat that takes on a lot of the flavor of what it’s cooked with. If you look at the nutritional information on my website, you’ll see it’s high in protein and fiber, with very little saturated fat.’
Liz/’Larry, why in the world do people want whole gators? You can’t eat the whole thing.’
Larry/’Yes you can! Most of the gator is edible. Some people dry the head for a decoration and use the feet for backscratchers.’
Liz/ ‘Larry did you ever think 20 years ago that you would be the ‘Louisiana Alligator King?’
Larry/ ‘Well, I don’t think I’m the king, but if you had asked me just ten years ago, I wouldn’t have believed I would have had a damn thing to do with it. This happened when I was 64 years old; I’m just surprised how this door opened.’
During the time all of this was happening, Larry had a life-changing heart attack. It changed the way he ate (hence the change from 290 lbs to 170), and it encouraged his move back to Shreveport to be with family and friends. We are sorry that happened, but glad that the outcome was to bring this one man force of nature back to his Louisiana roots. Larry’s plans initially are simple. He will turn the old KCS cafe building into a certified commercial kitchen and he will run his alligator preparation and online sales and shipping from there. He believes the kitchen should be up and legal by October. Once that happens, he will also offer the kitchen as the commissary kitchen for food trucks that need it. Later will be freezers and offices and perhaps space for caterers to do commercial catering from and then just maybe, a retail establishment that serves drinks and food.
In the meantime, Big Pops, who at 170 pounds should now really be ‘Medium Size Pops’, will continue looking into expanding into other products like alligator wings (legs), sausage, shrimp, crawfish tails and the like…but he’ll never get away from the thing what brung him to the dance; alligator. We welcome Pops to downtown Shreveport and look forward to the many directions his unique business can take.