Where Is Mee-Ma's Louisiana Gumbo From Shark Tank Today?

Gumbo — much like the closely related jambalaya — is all about bringing together different ingredients and cultures into a single tasty dish. A West African word for okra, for example, is what gave gumbo its name in the first place. Another common thickening agent, filé (powdered sassafras leaves), comes from the indigenous American Choctaw nation. Meanwhile, roux (flour browned in oil or fat), which is also used to thicken up gumbo, originated in France. The result is a beloved Louisiana dish of Cajun and Creole style. What truly makes it gumbo, though, is serving the hot stew with various meats, produce, and seafood added in over rice.

It can take a lot of time, effort, and skill to properly whip up a delicious gumbo, though. That is especially true when it comes to the roux, which is standard in modern gumbos. Consequently, one entrepreneur took it upon herself to solve that problem for the average consumer, turning to "Shark Tank" for backup.

Did gumbo get a jumbo deal?

The winning formula for any "Shark Tank" pitch is an impressive product plus an equally impressive entrepreneur. Carole Foster believed she possessed both of those key ingredients. Discussing her Louisiana Gumbo with the Los Angeles Sentinel, Foster professed, "It is not an ethnic dish," and that, "it's not a seasonal dish," either. Instead, her pre-made, frozen roux 'bricks' were designed to be a mass-appeal product, which anybody could heat up and flavor with their favorite gumbo ingredients. After selling gumbo at church and local markets, Foster scored a deal with Costco, but her family business required investment to build up its inventory.

Foster appeared on Season 4 Episode 23 of "Shark Tank," offering 20% equity for a $200,000 investment. The Sharks agreed her family-recipe-turned-product was impressive, but Daymond John, Mark Cuban, and Robert Herjavec felt that the company itself was too small to be ready for such a huge investment. However, Foster's bootstraps tale of selling gumbo on street corners, working hard hours as a long-haul truck driver, and persevering through periods of being unhoused all struck a chord with Lori Greiner and Kevin O'Leary. Together, the "QVC Queen" and "Mr. Wonderful" offered Foster $200,000 in exchange for a whopping 50% of Mee-Ma's Louisiana Gumbo.

"You are the okra in my gumbo," Foster told O'Leary. "Slimy though it may be, it adds character, and it adds body, and it adds richness!" Sadly, in Foster's opinion, the Sharks were ultimately too slimy to bear.

Foster believes she was Shark Pranked

Not all "Shark Tank" deals go through, but at least originally, Carole Foster seemed to have struck gumbo gold. "It was so amazing to be able to get a deal," she informed the Los Angeles Sentinel soon after her televised pitch. "Lori Greiner and Kevin O'Leary are amazing partners." However, in 2020, Foster published a book entitled, "Shark Pranked: How I Got Jerked Around By That Stupid 'Investor' Show." Clearly, the deal fell through. So, how is Mee-Ma's Louisiana Gumbo faring without those supposedly slimy Sharks?

Just as gumbo remains one of the best things to eat in Louisiana, the frozen roux bricks made by Mee-Ma's Louisiana Gumbo remain up for sale. The company's website sells seafood gumbo bricks, chicken gumbo bricks, and a combo pack. Additionally, some retailers such as Vons offer the product for delivery and pickup. Unfortunately, though, not all seems to be well with the company. Costco apparently no longer carries the gumbo bricks, and two purported Yelp pages for Mee-Ma's Louisiana Gumbo indicate the business may have closed. However, recent posts from 2022 on the company's Facebook profile claim that it's working on new marketing strategies and that the product is soon coming back to a store near you.

Gumbo is all about bringing ingredients and people together. Regrettably, this time, it appears to have failed to bring the Sharks in. Even so, Foster's perseverance might mean Mee-Ma's Louisiana Gumbo someday becomes a well-known product after all.