Chef Dee Lavigne is teaching her Deelightful Roux School of Cooking at the Southern Food and Beverage Museum. In this hands-on class, Lavigne guides students through a tour of Southern cuisine. Deelightful Roux School of Cooking is the only African American-owned cooking school taught by a New Orleans native, and her class is a guide to New Orleans’ food culture.
The middle of eight children, Lavigne started cooking when she was seven. Cooking allowed her to express herself creatively, however, it wasn’t her first career choice. “I wanted to be an accountant, so I went to the University of New Orleans to study accounting,” Lavigne said. “I hated it. It wasn’t what I thought it was going to be; it didn’t fulfill my hopes and dreams.” Lavigne left school and moved with her boyfriend to Oklahoma. She needed to find a career path in her new home, so she tentatively returned to cooking, enrolling in a vocational school for culinary arts. It was here that she quickly discovered her passion. From there, she entered cooking competitions, and soon her instructor was urging her to attend culinary school. “I thought I was already in culinary school. My instructor gave me the option of attending Le Cordon Bleu in France, Johnson & Wales University in Rhode Island or the Culinary Institute of America in New York,” Lavigne said. Lavigne had never traveled outside of the country and had barely traveled outside Louisiana when she began attending the Culinary Institute of America. After she graduated, she assessed what she enjoyed in the food industry and the type of career she wanted to pursue. “I knew that this wasn’t an easy field and it isn’t easy for women,” she said. “It’s very male-dominated- I even noticed that when I was in school. I was one of two women in my class.”