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Porch & Parish

Ethelene Pralines

Feb 21, 2024 12:00PM ● By Lauren Pope

Keonia Smith lost nearly everything in the 2016 flood.  She’d spent the past 20 years working in health information management, but after her forced relocation to Zachary, she decided that it was time for a big change. The year after was hard but “instead of allowing depression to take over, I started baking and creating sweets,” she explains.

She didn’t start with pralines though. She started with cakes. Her cakes were good. Great even. However, Smith knew they just weren’t really her niche. She tried a few different confections, but the ones that everyone raved about were her pralines. With her mother’s encouragement, she decided to dive in and devote her resources to making the best recipe in Louisiana. It took about three years of testing and practice to get the ones that everyone agreed were just right.

“I knew I had it when everyone agreed that it was the best. I had lots of testers giving feedback and suggestions, but in the end they were just raving.” That was around 2020, and it was then that she decided that it was time to get her license to make her passion into a viable business. 

Smith partnered with LSU food labs in 2022. They help with things like nutrition labeling and, perhaps more importantly, give her access to a commercial kitchen to cook in. With that partnership in place, she was able to get her product into retailers across the area.

Closest to home, you can find her pralines at Lee Street Boutique. In addition to her set retailers, Smith travels around to festivals and expos throughout the year. There she’s able to network and get direct market feedback.


Now, you might be thinking, “Ok, but who is Ethelene?!” I was too! “Ethelene was my husband’s grandma,” Smith said. “I really wanted a Southern “Big Mama” type name for the branding, and I thought Ethelene was just perfect.” The praline’s namesake was also rumored to be a fabulous cook, though she passed away before Smith had a chance to meet her. 

As far as advice to others with a passion for baking or cooking, Smith offers this advice: “Keep playing around til your find your niche. I tried cakes, then chocolate pretzels, and some other candy, but nothing was quite right til I found pralines.”

We’re all very glad that she did. If you would like to send some pralines to out of town friends, you can order them directly from her website at