ARNAUDVILLE — The death of a lifelong dream ended up saving Chad Vidrine’s life.
After nearly four years of anxiety-filled stress trying to keep the doors of his family restaurant open, the longtime head soccer coach at Beau Chene High School finally made the tear-inducing but necessary decision.
For Vidrine to not only survive but to once again possess a life filled with joy and happiness he had to give up the dream of owning a restaurant. That night in late March of 2019, with his father Hubert at his side, Vidrine packed up the last of his personal items and then shut off the lights for the final time at Vidrine’s Steakhouse.
It was a devastating moment for Vidrine but one he now proudly credits for changing his life.
“It truly saved my life,” Chad said. “To be honest with you, if we would have kept the restaurant I would have had a heart attack or stroke. Just to be able to now breathe, sleep better and smile is a blessing.
“My parents tell me that — the parents of kids I coach — they tell me I used to be unbearable at times,” Chad added. “They didn’t even want to approach me. This has made me a better coach to these kids.”
“The boys on the team have been locked in even more than ever before,” Beau Chene senior forward Adrian Michael Eaglin said. “Coach does smile a lot more. He just seems like he enjoys it more — coaching and life.”
Family, Flavor & Futbol
Vidrine got introduced to the restaurant business by the same man who introduced him to sports — his father Hubert.
Not only did the elder Vidrine teach his son about sports but he actually spent time coaching him in football, basketball, baseball and, of course, soccer. Chad went on to play football at Opelousas Catholic (Class of 1993) before heading off to the University of Louisiana to study education.
It was during this time that after spending decades working at a refinery in Church Point, Hubert and his wife, Tammy, were unexpectedly presented an opportunity to buy into the service industry.
In 1997, Hubert stopped by to buy a case of beer at Weston’s, a butcher shop/general store in Lewisburg.
“He wanted to sell me the store and I bought it on the spot,” Hubert laughed while remembering that fateful day. “Instead of buying the case of beer I bought the store.”
Within a few years, the Vidrines expanded the business to include video poker machines, but to get permission to install the machines, the family needed to create a cafe inside the store. So they began selling plate lunches, chicken and burgers.
The Vidrines began to notice just how popular the eatery was becoming and added a small 30-seat dining room to the store and renamed it Vidrine’s Cafe. Then things really took off when, in 2001, inspired by taking top honors at beef cookoffs the Vidrines began selling large seasoned steaks (ribeyes, t-bones and even filet mignon) for the affordable price of $10.
It was during this time that Chad, who was had pursued a career in retail management, began debating what he wanted his future to look like. There was an offer to advance in Sears but it required a move to Jacksonville, Florida.
“At that time Chad was coming around and he really wanted to move back to the country,” Hubert said. “He decided that he didn’t want to leave Louisiana and move to Jacksonville.”
“I had a nice job at Sears in management but I didn’t feel that was where I needed to be,” Chad admitted.
Good thing for Chad was that business had become so busy that his father genuinely needed the help.
“We had a line of cars down the road one night,” Hubert said. “After that night I called him up and said ‘I need you now bubba. We need all the help we can get.’”
Chad soon became the general manager of Vidrine’s Cafe and worked side by side with his father.
“It was great,” Hubert said. “I mainly concentrated on the daytime and he would come straight on for the night shift. I would do the store business more and he would handle the restaurant more. It was great.”
As rewarding as it might have been to run a widely popular restaurant, the younger Vidrine still yearned for teaching and coaching. After years spent coaching a club team in Opelousas, Vidrine arrived at Beau Chene High School as a volunteer coach for the boys’ soccer team. In his 14 seasons at the helm, Vidrine has helped transform the Gators into one of the area’s premier soccer programs. Beau Chene has won 231 contests, reached the state semifinals nine times, and finished as state runner-up twice (2013, 2018).
“I never dreamt that we would have played for state championships or even make the semifinals,” Chad said. “We were looking to compete and make the playoffs.”
Disappointments & Opportunities
The younger Vidrine balanced life as a successful soccer coach while also managing the family business. Then in 2015, his father decided that it was time for him to get out of the business.
“I told him, ‘Look, take this and find another location and now would be a good time to do it,’” Hubert said.
With the approval and encouragement of his father, Chad and his wife Carri made the decision to not only take over the business, but move to a new location, a 7,700-square-foot restaurant in a new shopping center off Interstate 49 in Carencro.
“We had a really amazing start,” Chad said. “Those first four to five months were awesome. If we could have kept that going we never would have closed our doors.”
What Vidrine couldn’t anticipate was a trio of factors that presented roadblocks to success.
The first was the economy in Acadiana bottoming out in early 2016, followed quickly by the historic floods that same year, and then the rapid commercial development that took off on the other side of I-49 in Carencro.
The buzzed-about start would slow down and the stress of keeping the business open began to weigh heavily on Vidrine.
“In truth we should have shut down a few years earlier,” Chad said. “We did everything we could for two years to keep the doors open. It was never-ending bad luck. Every time we took a step forward and it looked like we were ready to climb out of that massive hole we were in then something else happened. It never could take off.”
Last year, shortly after Beau Chene fell in the state semifinals, Vidrine called his father and admitted that they couldn’t hold out any longer.
“He called me in one day,” Hubert said. “He said, ‘We have done everything we can do but I think we are tapped out’. I told him not to fight it. You love to coach, you love to be at school and you’ve got to love what you do. You can’t fight this any longer.”
That fight would end on March 24th, 2019.
That was the final day of Vidrine’s Steakhouse, a day that was far more of a punch in the gut than the experience of standing on the field watching his Gators lose in the state championships or the run of early-round playoff exits to lower seeds from 2009-11.
There with him that last night was his father.
“He knew what I was going through and he was there for me,” Chad said. “I didn’t even ask him to be there. He just showed up that last day to help me. It meant a lot.”
The door may have literally closed on his dream of being a local business owner but another door soon opened up.
During a St. Landry Parish School Board meeting, ironically in which the Gators were honored for their playoff run, Vidrine was approached about becoming a teacher.
“It was always something in the back of mind to become a teacher,” Chad said.
“His mother told him before he opened up the restaurant in Carencro, ‘Why don’t you go into teaching and coaching full time?’” Hubert said. “Four years later, to have him do what he should have done four years earlier is a blessing.”
Vidrine serves as the Digital Media Teacher at Beau Chene. This school year students in any grade are offered Digital Media 1 and Digital Media 2. The full-year courses allow students to get certification in Photoshop Illustrator, Indesign and video production.
His experience marketing a restaurant has given Vidrine a wealth of experience to lean on.
“When you are having to do your own marketing, your own social media, your own flyers you learn how to use all of these programs,” Chad said. “I even used to do my own wrestling show on TV years ago so in a way I have been working towards this for years.”
Now serving as a full-time teacher has also made an impact on his approach to coaching.
“He’s been fired up,” Eaglin said. “We have never been able to get a state championship and he is even more hungry than ever to win one. Last year we got robbed of it. The year before we got robbed of it. He is even hungrier now.”
This season Beau Chene fell short of its ultimate goal of winning a state championship with a 3-0 loss in the semifinals to St. Thomas More on Friday night.
Despite the defeat, Vidrine is happier now than he has ever been.
“I think the best part has been connecting with the kids more,” Chad said. “I have seen up close how kids have changed in the past five years and ten years. It is the IPhone generation. It has all changed and you have to be able to reach those kids.
“Being here everyday and seeing these kids has made me a better coach and I am happier than I have been in a long time,” Vidrine added