At 2:15 p.m. Friday I opened my front door, and there stood Stanley Alford holding a Styrofoam cooler that contained 15 pounds of steaming-hot crawfish, plus sausage, corn, and potatoes. Would you say in March that Christmas came early? Sure, why not.
Alford is the co-founder of Out The Mud, a company that delivers fresh and boiled crawfish, crabs, and shrimp to folks throughout the region. He's a native of Louisiana who moved his family to Houston after his home flooded in 2016, and for about six months they lived in an apartment with a blow-up mattress. About a year into his time in Houston, Alford and a friend dreamed up a crawfish business, a way to bring some of their Louisiana upbringing to others in H-Town.
For around three years Out The Mud was based solely out of a trailer while also offering catering, but in February 2020, the small company started considering delivering cooked mudbugs and other seafood delights to people's front doors. When Covid-19 forced the local food and drink community to rethink how to feed Houstonians, Alford knew it was time to put that delivery idea into practice.
"Me catering one event really takes pretty much the whole day," says Alford. "The boil-in-a-box theory allows us to deliver all over Houston and satisfy and serve more customers all in the same day."
A year after starting deliveries, he and his small team (two workers, plus Alford and his wife) average about 10 per day, dropping off 15- or 30-pound boxes of crawfish to excited people. Along with the crawdads, Out The Mud also offers a boil-in-a-box with four pounds each of shrimp and crab legs, a Gulf box that includes five pounds of blue crabs and two pounds of shrimp, and a boil-in-a-box that also adds on four pounds of king crab legs.
All of the seafood is sourced from the Gulf via a distributor Alford works with from Tuesday to Sunday. Alford says the crustaceans that show up at your door were caught fresh the night before; he boils as close to delivery time as possible out of his trailer, bags and ties up the grub, fits it into a cooler, and takes it to his customer. We opened my delivery upon arrival and steam left the bag upon untying it.
Boiled in a homemade Cajun-based spice blend (Alford calls it "real authentic ... I know how crawfish should taste"), the crawfish held a salty but slightly sweet flavor with those light waves of citrus and a late swat of chile heat. Alford says you don't want to go more than two or three hours after delivery to eat; to test his theory, I tried a few two hours later, and they were still warm and delicious. After three hours, all good.
Out The Mud also ships the Gulf Box nationwide. For those, he boils the food and chills it immediately, shipping it for next-day arrival so it can stay as fresh as possible. That way you can give a Gulf Coast seafood boil to loved ones, whether during the pandemic or afterward. That's Alford's plan anyway—Out The Mud looks to keep delivery going far beyond Covid-19.
To put it another way, if you need fresh Gulf seafood delivered to your door, Out The Mud has you covered. It's just another example of a chef pivoting and finding success in the face of immense challenges. In fact, the company's name comes from how to ascend from struggle; it just so happens that it also describes the life of a Gulf Coast crawfish.
"We really are a family owned company that had to get out the mud," says Alford. "But you can get it out the mud ... you can make things happen."