When the new Carnival parade takes place in Marrero on Tuesday, crowds along the route are unlikely to shout the usual “throw me something, sir.”
“It’s ‘throw me something, chief’ or ‘throw me something, queen,'” Akasia Lee-Nicholas said, taking a break from preparing plates of fried fish and spicy jambalaya in her Akasia’s Café restaurant on the West Bank highway.
Lee-Nicholas is the founder of Carnival Krewe, the culinary queens of New Orleans. His new parade is the first to settle in this part of Jefferson Parish in decades.
The Culinary Queens is also a new expression of one of New Orleans culture’s deepest passions: food and its ability to connect people and communities.
The group is led by women who run catering businesses or work in the hospitality industry. Since its inception last year, it has quickly evolved into a multi-faceted network of mutual support and community engagement for its members.
“New Orleans culture is so rooted in food,” said Kimmy Townsend, founding member and owner of Kimmy’s Creations, a dessert brand.
“You find so many different people in our community connected through this, you can reach out to them and support them and they support you,” she said.
A growing network
The February 22 parade begins with 15 floats, marching bands and marching units and approximately 170 horsemen. The parade rolls out at 6 p.m. Signature throws include chef’s hats, spatulas and plastic wine glasses, in addition to custom throws like glitter kitchen spoons.
Each tank lieutenant works in the culinary field. Among this number are women who own restaurants and catering businesses, bakers and confectioners, bartenders and beverage brand creators.
They are small businesses, created from scratch. Many members are sole proprietors, and some continue these businesses while maintaining their primary employment in health care, social work, and other professions.
Together, however, they’ve built a network that expands their contacts, resources, and prowess. Desiree Narcisse, whose brand Dem Pies makes crawfish pies and other savory pies, said being in the krewe means having a team of people by your side.
“It makes everyone’s business grow, because we talk about each other and what they’re doing,” Narcisse said. “We take them with us to other rooms and open those doors.”
Lollie Allen, founder of Clouds & Cocktails bartending service, agreed.
“It’s not just about the parade,” she said. “It’s almost an extra. It’s a network issue.
Arthur Hardy, editor of the Mardi Gras Guide, said there is strong precedent for krewes forming around a common purity and identity.
The superkrewe Bacchus, for example, was started by people in the hospitality industry, while the Krewe of Freret, which originally ran on Freret Street, was formed by people who owned businesses around that stretch Uptown mall.
“For most krewes, the genesis is people with a common interest,” Hardy said.
For most people, Tuesday’s parade will be an introduction to the new krewe. But it was active throughout the year leading up to the big day with events for members and also for the community.
Often, these rely on the culinary expertise of its members. Around Halloween there was a trunk or treat event, and just before Christmas the krewe organized a free community meal for mothers who had suffered the death of a child, a rally in the name of solidarity . Food flowed from their homes and businesses.
From loss, new connection
The theme for the first parade is “Eat, Drink and Be Merry”. But the Culinary Queens krewe owes its origins to how Lee-Nicholas handled the loss herself. In 2019, her son Devon Lee died aged 26 after suffering from epilepsy. capture.
“After losing my son, I didn’t even want to live anymore. I needed something to flip the switch,” she said.
Other women in the food business have provided comfort and support, inspiring her to find ways to further strengthen the bonds they share in their field.
Culinary Queens members come from all parts of the metropolitan area. They have built new connections that cross different neighborhoods and parishes.
“I feel like other krewes are relying on your status in society. But this is our brotherhood. And that sisterhood is real,” said Tiffany Watts, founder of Oh! Sweet Lemon, a brand of lemonade sold in local restaurants and grocery stores.
A common thread is a legacy for good food and cooking skill, which Watts says is something they share as New Orleanians.
“Growing up; all you had was family time, grandma cooking in the kitchen, you didn’t know anything else, you didn’t go out to eat,” she said. the things people are excited about as New Orleans food, that’s all we had growing up.”
The mission continues
The parade route runs through the old Lee-Nicholas neighborhood, beginning on Lapalco Boulevard, down Ames Boulevard, and ending at the Johnny Jackson Playground. It was important to Lee-Nicholas to take the parade down familiar streets.
“It’s where I come from, where I worked the hardest,” she said.
But after the last chef’s hats and spatulas are removed from the floats, the culinary queens of New Orleans will continue their cause, networking and strengthening each other as they move forward in hospitality. Lee-Nicholas watches with satisfaction as the members of his coterie continue.
“If I’ve made it through and they’re through the door, then I’ve done my job,” she said.
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