ATLANTA - The chef who introduced America to blackened redfish has something else he'd like to hook us on: New Orleans.

Paul Prudhomme didn't give up on the city, returning soon after Hurricane Katrina to reopen his legendary K-Paul's Louisiana Kitchen and to film a new cooking show for PBS.

Through his travels he's also working to entice tourists and conventioneers to return.

The sight of crumbling houses close to where he lives reminds Prudhomme daily how lucky he is to have survived the hurricane with his home, restaurant and seasoning business intact. A jazz band and parade celebrating the start of shrimp season livened up the French Quarter recently, on a day when Prudhomme, who's nearing his 67th birthday, talked about cooking, his businesses, surviving a disaster and how he's managed to lose more than 300 pounds and keep it off. Questions and answers have been edited for space and clarity.

Q. What are you involved in now?

A. We're up to survival. We're trying to rebuild the city by trying to get the word out that New Orleans and the French Quarter and the hotels and convention center are ready for thousands and thousands of people. We just need to convince them they'll be safe here and have a good time. We're working on that, very hard, the whole city is.

Q. It seems like you're having a hard time getting the message across.

A. No doubt about it. The media keeps showing pictures of the city, some of them with water still in it. People really ask me if there's still water in my house. It just drives you nuts. The water has been gone for a year and a half, you know. There was no damage to my house at all. The restaurant is in the French Quarter and the water didn't reach us at all. One of the things that's really amazing is, we lost tourism, but we got the locals back.

Q. Is business pretty good?

A. We're used to getting 500 to 700 people a night. Now it's way below that. Some nights you break even, some nights you don't. We actually went from October '05 to January '07 without breaking even one time. Since then we're on our third month we're going to break even, because of Jazz Fest and other things. It's a battle and we know it's there, we accept it, and we're going to win it.

Q. What's the name of your new TV series?

A. It's "Chef Paul Prudhomme's Always Cooking!" because that's what I'm doing. I am always cooking.

Q. What do you like to cook for yourself now?

A. I'm into whole grains. Sometimes we roast them, which really makes a difference. We'll roast vegetables and we'll put them together and put dressing on them instead of a sauce, literally salad dressing, and it just makes it spectacular. You just can't stop eating it.

I went from 560 pounds to 225 or 230. I fluctuate from 220 to 250, and when I get to 250, I get back to 220. It changes the way you eat.

I just decided I didn't want to be large anymore. Eleven years ago - it's going to be 12 on my next birthday (in July) - I decided I had a lot of information about food and I didn't want to go on a diet and I didn't want to get cut on, so I started a program on understanding what I should eat and how to eat it. It gave me a whole new lifestyle, and a whole new feeling in my bones and my body.

It's not hard to do. The first three or four weeks it was miserable.