MLK 50: How Creole food contributes to African American culture

NEW ORLEANS -- Creole food is a very important part of African American culture in New Orleans, and in honor of that culture, we're highlighting one of the most prominent Creole families in the city: the Baquets.

There are few with a finer pedigree in Creole cuisine than the Baquet family.

The family, one of whom is the owner of popular Lil Dizzy's restaurant in Treme.

The family started in the restaurant business in the 1940s with a place called Paul Gross Chicken Coup on Bienville and Roman.

 

"When we had our first place, segregation was in. When we had our second place, integration had just opened up," says Lil Dizzy's owner Wayne Baquet.

Integration allowed Eddie Baquet, Wayne's father, to branch out and open Eddie's in 1966. It was wildly successful and won hearts and taste buds alike with the gumbo.

 

"Creole food is the soul food of New Orleans, and I'm talking about black Creole folks," Wayne Baquet says.

It was black Creoles who created the Creole soul, born out of communities like the Sixth and Seventh Wards and Treme.

"The main chef was my mom, my aunt and my grandmother," Wayne Baquet says. "My dad was the butcher, and I was a student at Dillard during the day and a bar tender at night."

With over 10 restaurants, the Baquet family served flavor to nourish the soul.

"We fried chicken, we made gumbo, we made red beans, we stuffed crabs, we stuffed bell peppers. We became pretty popular," Wayne Baquet says.

Today, there's just the one -- Lil Dizzy's -- named after Wayne's grandson.

"I called Zachary one day, and I got his voice mail and it said, 'You got me. This is Lil' Dizzy.' I called him and said, 'What is this about?' He said, 'I have my own band.' I said, 'I like it. I like the sound and I'm going to name my new restaurant Lil' Dizzy's," Wayne Baquet recalls.

Everyone who's anyone has had a taste of Lil Dizzy's, from Irma Thomas to Roberta Flack to Frankie Beverly and Maze.

"They're all my favorites," Wayne Baquet says. "The secret is consistency. We have a reputation for having the best gumbo in the world, so just get on board and lets see what happens."