Chef Dee Lavigne is following in Chef Lena Richard's footsteps

2022-12-22

In February of 2022, Chef Dwynesha “Dee” Lavigne founded Deelightful Roux School of Cooking, following in the footsteps of her heroine, the late Chef Lena Richard. It’s been over eighty years since a Black woman has owned a cooking school in New Orleans, ever since Richard closed hers—the first—to pursue opportunities in New York City in the 1940s.

Richard’s remarkable career as a chef, cookbook author, restaurateur, frozen food entrepreneur, and cooking school operator set the standard for New Orleans cuisine and Creole cooking during the first half of the twentieth century—a time when Black people, especially Black women, faced the historic oppression and obstacles of the Jim Crow South. In 1939, she self-published New Orleans Cook Book, the first Creole cookbook written by a Black person—which was later republished by Houghton-Mifflin. In 1949, Richard became the first Black woman to host a television cooking show, Lena Richard’s New Orleans Cook Book, altering the perception of Creole food by highlighting its Black roots. Her show, taped at WDSU in New Orleans, preceded Julia Child’s The French Chef by over a decade and challenged the perceptions of wealthy white families who watched her (the ones who could own a television), who were used to Black women’s presence in the kitchen solely as domestic workers.

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