In 1949 — more than a decade before Julia Child’s television debut — a boisterous Creole chef put on a cook’s uniform and made history. That was the year New Orleans NBC affiliate WDSU aired the first of many episodes of “Lena Richard’s New Orleans Cook Book.” Running twice a week through 1950, its host, Lena Richard, would become the first Black woman to have her own cooking television show, breaking through barriers imposed by the Jim Crow-era South, and helping a wider audience learn more about the Black roots of Creole cuisine.
Even though its run was short-lived — she died in 1950 — Richard’s life and career would have a profound impact on food media, as she led the way as a leading figure in food television while breaking down gender and racial barriers. It’s only now that her legacy has gained momentum thanks to numerous researchers and writers determined to celebrate her accomplishments.
We produce reported pieces, profiles, interviews, and rants about what’s broken in the food world (there’s a lot) and how to change things for the better. People sometimes tell me to just keep politics out of it. Respectfully: No. Food is political. We can’t and won’t ignore that.