Kristen Preau

Kristen Preau Moore’s ambition in life has always been to celebrate the place she proudly calls home—which is why her early career shows a distinct pattern: She was a costume character at Jazzland, an intern at the Superdome, and worked in marketing and sales for University of New Orleans Athletics, among other things. But it was only after Hurricane Katrina that the New Orleans–born entrepreneur’s dream came into sharper focus. “My house flooded and I was evacuated. I had this sense that I had my whole life ahead of me and I had to figure out something. And like the natural response of most Louisiana people to tragedy, I decided to cook.”

The daughter of a small-business owner whose company made cooking equipment, Preau Moore was no stranger to the food business, or jambalaya, which she grew up cooking with her father. The pair embarked on a traveling football-season tailgating fundraiser to 11 universities serving jambalaya—and raised $100,000 for her hometown. “People kept asking me for my recipe and I knew that there was a connection … and I wanted to turn that connection into a business.” After a crucial rebrand to Jambalaya Girl (her childhood nickname), the girl with the fork earrings launched her seasoned mixes in grocery stores across the country. But she never forgets where she came or how she realized her dream. “What I live by every day comes from my high school motto of ‘Veritas.’ Be true to yourself. So I make sure I’m bringing it back to my city, no matter where I’m taking it around the world.”