By Jalyn Ferrand & Keishaun Thompson
One afternoon, in the quaint kitchen of a New Orleans East home, the pleasant aroma of praline candies dances through the air, tickling the noses of passing neighbors. In the heart of kitchen, Andrew stands over a large metal pot, concentrating with a sly grin on his face, stirring in heavy whipped cream, pecans, and creamy milk chocolate. This second batch, crafted with time and care, is the type of pralines that reminds Andrew of pre-Katrina New Orleans. The smell and taste brings him back to feel of community before the storm. Andrew revealed how food shaped the culture and city of New Orleans.
It is a well known fact that New Orleans is a town of good food. One of the reasons is because of the rich cultural diversity, combining flavors from a mix of traditions. Pralines are traditionally a French dish. In New Orleans, the upbringing around food involves family and community, bringing all sorts into the kitchen. Andrew indicates, “In the early years, you can remember what day it was by what dish people were cooking.” New Orleans ran on a food-based schedule; Sundays consisted of crawfish boils, Mondays served red beans and rice, Fridays were full of seafood. New Orleans is a town where people, as well as the culture, influenced people like Andrew to cook by making food a staple of life, beyond just survival.
Andrew has a lot of experience working in the food industry and working with well-known faces. As he states, “It was in 1982 when I first met Chef Paul and his wife Kay Prudhomme, owners of the world’s famous K-Paul’s. The Chef and his wife took me under their wing and gave me a job at their restaurant as a pot washer.” Through hard work, he was promoted to prep-cook, then salads, line cook, lead cook, pastry chef, and sous chef after being there for about twenty five years. Andrew then was I recruited by Jacques and Muriel to be as an executive sous chef at the Sage Dining Service. Again through hard work, he was promoted to head chef, the position he holds to this day. Hard work and an upbringing in a community centered around food got Andrew where he is today: working as a head chef in a great restaurant in New Orleans, his home.
Food is the root and heart of New Orleans. The unique cuisine is so rich in history and a part of everyday life that it influenced Andrew to become a chef. This demonstrates that food and fine dining are what makes New Orleans, New Orleans. Or as Andrew puts it, to enjoy what you are doing, you must have a passion for food.
Jalyn Ferrand and Keishaun Thompson are freshmen at the New Orleans Charter Science and Mathematics High School.