There is no place in the world that can compare with Louisiana in cooking, except Paris, and we can do just as well here as the cooks do there.” ~Nellie Murray, March 18, 1894
Nellie Murray was the most sought after Créole de couleur caterer in New Orleans for many premier society balls and parties in the 1890s. Nellie Murray was born enslaved in Baton Rouge, Louisiana in 1835 and owned by Louisiana Governor Paul Octave Hébert. By the end of the Civil War, Nellie Murray moved to New Orleans as a servant for the Hébert family. In New Orleans, Nellie Murray used the knowledge she learned from her mother and grandmother who were both enslaved cooks to amass a fortune by the late 19th century.
At the height of Murray’s culinary career, she traveled throughout Europe as a personal chef; assumed the position as Chef de cuisine for the Louisiana Mansion Club during the 1893 World’s Fair: Columbian Exposition in Chicago; fed American soldiers before departing for battle in the Spanish-American War; and catered a private luncheon for the 1903 National Suffrage Convention held in New Orleans, attended by the famous suffragette, Susan B. Anthony.
By the time Murray died in 1918, she had gained legendary status, spoke out against New Orleans’ segregated street car law and paved the way for future women of color in the New Orleans culinary industry such as the pioneering WDSU 1940s cooking show host Lena Richard and chef and co-owner of the legendary Dooky Chase Restaurant, Leah Chase.
For the first time, the rich history and contributions of Nellie Murray to New Orleans and its famous Creole cuisine will be honored and celebrated by recreating some of her late 19th century dishes by New Orleans chefs Leah Chase, Edgar “Dook” Chase IV, William Sampson, and the chef for the Charleston Nat Fuller Feast, Kevin Mitchell.
ABOUT THE NELLIE MURRAY FEAST
The Cummings’ beautiful Metairie home will be transformed into a magical setting for a one-of-a kind five-course late 19th century Creole feast. The dining experience begins with a Patron Party for our special guests and sponsors from 6:00 pm to 7:00 pm with a special performance by Opera Creole. Late 19th century hor d’oeuvres and specialty cocktails by mixologist, Daniel Victory of Victory Bar, New Orleans will be served. New Orleans chefs Leah Chase, Edgar “Dook” Chase IV, William Sampson, Syrena Johnson and Charleston Nat Fuller Feast chef, Kevin Mitchell, Linda Green and Frank Roman will recreate dishes Nellie Murray made during her era for all guests promptly at 7:30 pm. Full waiter service, desserts from the period, wine and cocktails will also be included. The Nellie Murray Feast will be hosted by Camille Whitworth, formerly of WDSU.
ABOUT THE LEAH CHASE DOCUMENTARY: THE QUEEN OF CREOLE CUISINE
TV Producer Bess Carrick’s latest documentary chronicles the life of Leah Chase, a New Orleans icon and doyenne of Creole culture. In New Orleans, Leah Chase is well known as overseeing the evolution of her famous dining spot from a sandwich shop that prospered during segregation to a fine dining restaurant filled with an impressive African-American art collection. When describing her memories of those pivotal times she says, “I like to think we changed the world over a bowl of gumbo.” Honored by chefs, philanthropists, civil rights activists, world leaders and locals, Leah Chase has received numerous awards and commendations for her efforts that have furthered the awareness of New Orleans culture, Creole cuisine and African- American art including the 2016 James Beard Lifetime Achievement Award.
The Nellie Murray Feast is a fundraising event to raise funds for the final stage of production for the documentary. For more information about the film by Bess Carrick visit leahchase.org. Projected airdate: Early 2017 on New Orleans WLAE-TV.