City Lights: The Life and Legacy of New Orleans Chef Lena Richard

Dee Lavigne joins the Smithsonian Associates' Cooking Up History series to share a classic Creole recipe and stories of a groundbreaking woman.

Lena Richard’s New Orleans Cook Book: A Groundbreaking Story of Innovation and Resilience

Lena Richard‘s groundbreaking career as a chef, cookbook author, and restaurateur in the segregated South set the standard for New Orleans cuisine and Creole cooking during the first half of the 20th century. During the Jim Crow era’s oppressive racism, Richard established a catering business, a fine-dining restaurant, a cooking school, and more within the Louisiana city.

By 1939, she self-published the first Creole cookbook written by a Black person; a year later a publishing house republished the text as New Orleans Cook Book. In 1949, Richard also became the first Black woman to host a television cooking show under the same name as her book—revolutionizing the public’s perception of Creole food by highlighting its Black roots.


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