< Back to Oral History project: Women Cookbook Writers
Poppy Tooker has lived in New Orleans for most of her life. At a young age, she catered her mother’s dinner parties. An aspiring stage actor in college, Tooker cooked the foods she grew up eating—red beans and rice and stewed turnip greens—for her fellow students in Los Angeles. After moving back to New Orleans, she worked as a restaurant cook, cooking instructor, and product demonstrator.
In 1999, she initiated the local Slow Food chapter, launching a new career helping rescue and revive culinary traditions like Creole cream cheese (a hardy breakfast dairy product) and calas (fried rice fritters). She helped restaurants, farmers, and fishermen reopen for business in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Her first book, Crescent City Farmers Market Cookbook (2009), documented the post-storm revival of the city’s premier food outlet.
She later wrote books capturing the stories and recipes behind classic New Orleans restaurants, including Begué’s, Tujague’s, and Pascal’s Manale, and she produced and hosted the Louisiana Eats! radio and podcast program. Her career as a culinary preservationist is inspired by one her great-grandmother’s favorite maxims: “Eat it to save it.”