Endymion may rule the parade route on Saturday, but in the French Quarter earlier that same day two renowned chefs will rule the roux for a different sort of Carnival procession.
The Krewe of Lafcadio is a small marching parade that pays tribute to the flavor of our city in a unique way. Its monarchs are not celebrities or society mavens, but instead represent the city’s culinary heritage and restaurant culture.
This year, chefs Leah Chase and John Folse reign as queen and king. They’ll lead a pair of brass bands and 100 or so costumed marching members through the French Quarter.
Chase, matriarch of the family behind the highly influential Dooky Chase’s Restaurant, has long been regarded as the “queen of Creole cuisine” and has been lauded for leadership in realms far beyond food. Folse, a chef, food entrepreneur and prolific cookbook author, is widely regarded as an ambassador for traditional Louisiana food culture.
“In our view, Mardi Gras is about celebrating what’s great about this city and the food is a major part of that,” said John Kelly, the local computer scientist who formed the Krewe of Lafcadio in 2012 and serves as its captain. “You celebrate the food by celebrating the chefs.”
Some marchers don food-themed costumes, from the vegetables of the Creole “trinity” to Zapp’s potato chip wrappers, and others are organized in groups like the sous chef brigade or Hostess Cupcake Brigade. As a marching parade, this one is light on beads but heavy on interaction with onlookers. Its signature throw is a wooden kitchen spoon, and along the route, you’ll hear people cheering and chanting for spoons like they were Zulu coconuts.
The parade is named for Lafcadio Hearn, a writer who documented New Orleans culture in the 19th century and published a seminal Creole cookbook in 1885.
The parade is also a fundraiser, using membership dues and other contributions to send chefs from New Orleans restaurants to prepare meals for the crews aboard the USS Louisiana and USS New Orleans, two warships based near Seattle and in San Diego, respectively.
“It’s about sharing that culture with people who go into harms way on our behalf,” said Kelly.
The Krewe of Lafcadio begins at 2 p.m. on Feb. 25 at Antoine’s Restaurant (713 St. Louis St.), wends through the French Quarter and disbands near the restaurant.
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