In more than a decade interviewing Louisiana cooks, I’ve learned the secret of our world-renowned cuisine. It’s simple: Cooks here know how to season food. Visitors from the Midwestern meat-and-potato states are surprised when that first bite of gumbo or potato salad explodes with flavor.

When my family moved to New Orleans in 2000, I had written six cookbooks and been a newspaper food writer at Arizona’s largest daily for about 15 years. I was a good cook, but in a few years, with tips and advice from Louisiana home cooks and chefs, I was better.

In 2004, I became food editor for New Orleans’ daily paper — in time to get my feet under me before Hurricane Katrina changed everything. After talking to dozens of agonized cooks who lost their favorite recipes, I proposed a replacement cookbook. Three years later, my name and that of co-editor Marcelle Bienvenu were on “Cooking Up a Storm: Recipes Lost and Found from The Times-Picayune,” published by Chronicle Books in San Francisco.

Roux Believer: Recipes for Lima Beans with Shrimp, Food Processor Carrot Cake, Grilled Romaine,

It was a hit nationwide, not just locally, and the stories told by readers got the book nominated for a James Beard Award. On the 10th anniversary of the storm, it was re-released in hardcover.

My official retirement after 38 years at three daily newspapers came at the end of 2015. I’ve enjoyed the slower pace and time to pursue quilting and sewing, my favorite hobby. A little freelance writing and developing recipes for local food companies pay for my quilting habit.

The newest twist is my appearance here, in The Advocate. My columns will run on the second and fourth Thursdays, focusing on but not limited to stories and recipes of New Orleans chefs and cooks. I was proud to be asked to write for you.

I am always excited to hear from readers, and the best way to get in touch is via email at (If you have recipes to share, I’m doubly delighted!) What would you like to see in this space? I’ll have two or three recipes each time.

To begin, here are three of my all-time favorite recipes.  

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Contact Judy Walker at