South Louisiana–There is a great culinary creole tradition of food in South Louisiana. WGNO got the chance to speak with two chefs from across the region to talk food, family and love.

Shawanda Marie Williams love to tell the story of food in a unique way with Creole Story Pot, where she dresses up as a free woman of color during the 17th Century and cooks traditional creole food. Creole Story Pot started in 2017, when Shawanda was living away from her native home of New Orleans. Like many Louisiana migrants, she carried the heart of Louisiana and it’s food with her and decided to share her culture in Virginia.

“I love telling the story of Louisiana and our food because, our food represents our history. Christmas time in New Orleans was the best growing up. My grandmother was the matriarch and the chef of the family. We would have gumbo, stuffed bell peppers and mirliton with onion, belle pepper, celery, shrimp, crab, ham, garlic and bread crumbs for Christmas. When I was growing up, everybody grew these in their backyard and you would see mirliton growing on people’s fences. You don’t see them as plentiful on people’s homes anymore. Because of the hurricanes and the floods. Because it is such a part of our culture, it reminds me that culture is fragile. Food is so powerful. It’s a conduit because it holds memories and tells you who you are,” says Shawanda

Chef Sheri Raleigh’s family is originally from St. Martinville, Louisiana. Today she is based in Texas where she is a Chef instructor and author who specializes in historic African diaspora food ways, with emphasis on Louisiana. Recently she published a book that is titled: Gifts from the Ancestors.

The book is a love letter to all of the powerful creole women that inspired her flavor growing up.

“My father’s family were all Catholic. After midnight mass, we would all get together, go to midnight mass and come home and have gumbo. After I got married and had kids and had to do all of the Santa Claus things, I moved the gumbo to New Years. I always tell people that my grandmother would do oyster dressing, dirty rice, oyster loaf. Oyster loaf is a french bread with oyster dressing inside of it. Then she would slice it,” says Sheri Raleigh.

To purchase your copy of Gifts from the Ancestors, click here.