MLIVE — Longtime Saginawians who may remember the late Jimmie “Bilal” Pritchett’s popular Cajun fried turkey can now bring those flavors home to their own kitchens.
Pritchett, affectionately known around town as “the turkey man,” died after a battle with cancer in 2017. Still, his daughter, Tahisha Cogle, keeps his legacy and love for cooking alive with Bilal’s Famous Cajun Seasoning.
Cogle, 46, is the owner of Bilal’s Famous Cajun Seasoning LLC, available in various flavors from spicy medium to chili blend to extra hot. She sells individual jars of the spices and gift sets with recipe cards for the holidays.
“I’m really proud to be from Saginaw and to represent my dad,” Cogle said.
Pritchett was born in Alabama and later moved to Michigan. He was a veteran and an electrician, but cooking was his passion, Cogle said. In the mid-90s, after retiring from General Motors, Pritchett and some relatives opened a restaurant called Bilal’s on Genesee Avenue on the city’s East Side.
“It was really spicy. It was really different,” Cogle said of her father’s signature turkey, a unique offering at a time when many Saginaw restaurants were serving ribs and barbecue chicken. “He started to be known for this Cajun fried turkey.”
After Pritchett’s restaurant was torn down to make way for a new development, he operated his business from a food truck of sorts years before they became popular in mid-Michigan.
“He was probably one of the first food trucks,” Cogle said. “It was like a food trailer, and I still have it.”
Near the end of his life, when Pritchett was too ill to cook, he continued to sell his signature seasonings. Then, before he died, Cogle told him she wanted to continue the tradition.
“It started out as a promise to my dad. It was something he was really excited about,” she said.
Now, Cogle has the honor of making her dad’s Cajun spices and selling them to customers, many of whom remember Pritchett fondly.
“(They tell me) how friendly he was and how kind he was and how open he was,” she said. “It’s just a really good feeling.”
Cogle believes her dad would be pleased to see where the family business is today.
“I think that he would be just overwhelmed and completely proud and joyful that I took it on,” she said.
Bilal’s Famous Cajun Seasoning LLC can be found at CMURC Saginaw located at 203 S. Washington Suite 260, Saginaw, MI 48607.