THE ICON: Lena Richard
THE LEGACY: Lena Richard was a lot of things: a chef, caterer, restaurant owner, frozen food entrepreneur, cooking teacher, cookbook author. Most importantly, though, she was a trailblazer. A black woman growing up in Jim Crow New Orleans, she used her talents, smarts and sunbeam personality to surmount the significant social hurdles of the day and become a revered local chef, a successful businesswoman and, most impressively, a local TV personality, with her own pioneering cooking show airing twice weekly on WDSU in 1949 New Orleans. “She’s important because she stepped out on the water when there was no guarantee it would hold her up,” food historian Jessica B. Harris told the Chicago Tribune in 2015. “She was the first, an extraordinary first.” It wasn’t long before people were calling Richard one of the city’s best black chefs. By the time she died, she was widely regarded as the best, period.
THE ARTIST: Queen Hope Parker
THE INSPIRATION: “When I got way up there, I sure found out in a hurry that they couldn’t teach me much more than I already knew. I learned a few little things about fancy desserts and salads and other things like that. But when it comes to cooking meats, stews, soups, sauces and all the other things, those far-North people come down here to eat. I must say we Southern cooks have got them all beat a mile. That’s not boasting, it’s just the truth.” — Lena Richard, in a 1939 interview with The New Orleans Item