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At Thanksgiving: The stories of Black female chefs in NOLA – and efforts to fight food insecurity

Author and educator Zella Palmer with television personality and pioneering Creole chef, Leah Chase, at Dooky Chase Restaurant, 2015.
Jeremy Shine
Author and educator Zella Palmer with television personality and pioneering Creole chef, Leah Chase, at Dooky Chase Restaurant, 2015.

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, and to celebrate we are dedicating today’s entire episode to stories about food. Here in Louisiana, we know that food fosters culture and community, and has also been a way in which many chefs of color – and particularly women– were able to find economic success.

Lena Richard was the first Black woman to host her own cooking TV cooking show, which aired on WDSU-TV in New Orleans from 1949 until 1950. And Leah Chase broke so much ground at the helm of the Dooky Chase restaurant, that she was the inspiration for Disney’s first Black princess.

Back in 2021, we spoke with Zella Palmer, endowed chair and director of the Ray Charles Program in African American Material Culture at Dillard University. She also made the 2016 documentary, “The Story of New Orleans Creole Cooking: The Black Hand in the Pot,” and wrote the 2019 cookbook, “Recipes and Remembrances of Fair Dillard.” Today, we revisit our conversation on the history of Louisiana’s pioneering Black female chefs.

We also can’t talk about food without talking about food insecurity. While New Orleans is famous for its delicacies, food is not readily available to everyone, especially those living in parts of the city known as food deserts.

But there are some organizations looking to change that, such as I Am New Orleans,

which focuses on community-led efforts to improve racial equality in the city – including an urban farm geared towards youth development.

Last year, we spoke with Pamela Broom, 7th Ward Revitalization Project Manager with NewCorp, Inc, to learn more about how the organization is targeting food insecurity throughout the city. Today, we air an encore of that conversation.

Today’s episode of Louisiana Considered was hosted by Adam Vos. Our managing producer is Alana Schreiber and our assistant producer is Aubry Procell. Our engineer is Garrett Pittman.

You can listen to Louisiana Considered Monday through Friday at 12 and 7 p.m. It’s available on Spotify, Google Play, and wherever you get your podcasts. 

Louisiana Considered wants to hear from you! Please fill out our pitch line to let us know what kinds of story ideas you have for our show. And while you’re at it, fill out our listener survey! We want to keep bringing you the kinds of conversations you’d like to listen to.

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Adam is responsible for coordinating WRKF's programming and making sure everything you hear on the radio runs smoothly. He is Newscast Editor for the WRKF/WWNO Newsroom. Adam is also the Baton Rouge-based host for Louisiana Considered, our daily regional news program, and is frequently the local voice afternoons on All Things Considered.
Alana Schreiber is the managing producer for the live daily news program, Louisiana Considered. She comes to WRKF from KUNC in Northern Colorado, where she worked as a radio producer for the daily news magazine, Colorado Edition. She has previously interned for Minnesota Public Radio in St. Paul and The Documentary Group in New York City.