Installation #1: Creole Cuisine in NOLA

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Dessert dish: Blacked Out Croissant Bread Pudding topped with Bananas Foster, vanilla ice cream and fresh mint.

World-renowned for its unique music style, creole cuisine and jargon, home of Essence fest and Mardi Gras, New Orleans’ rich culture is something worth sticking your fork into. Colorful in many ways, NOLA is known for its melting pot of of races and cultures that have built its expressive reputation.

Indulge in a little of history about New Orleans, how it encouraged such a beautiful culture and how it became a location of inspiration for me as a Pastry Chef with an eye for color and innovation!

Historically, the integration of the French, American, Spanish and African people in New Orleans all came about at different points in its history. Starting way back in 1718, a district called “French Louisiana” was born and existed until 1763 when it was yielded to the Spanish Empire through the Treaty of Paris. After this was the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, when Napoleon sold the region to the United States (the event that we all likely wrote about in our High school DBQ essays *cringes*). The Haitian Revolution in Saint-Domingue was one of the most influential events  on the decision - When Napoleon’s French forces couldn’t get control of Saint-Domingue, he decided to give up on Louisiana as well.

After the purchase, New Orleans grew rapidly with more Americans, French, Blacks - slaves and freed slaves, in addition to the Americans, French and Spanish that already lived there. This is when the melting post started to simmer and create the gumbo of cultures that we know it to be today.

Today, Louisiana is widely known as the “Creole state”, the term itself meaning “Louisiana-born people of European descent.” The most expressive example of Louisiana's Creole culture is surely it’s food, which is considered “The literal melting pot of America”. Originating in the Bayous of the state, their cuisine includes influences from the French, Spanish, African, Native American and Caribbean. The credit of its evolution is due to the many new multicultural settlers’ touch when creating meals, cultural pride and the Latin cultural desire to eat well.

With all of these notably intertwined, the cuisine is said to have a French aesthetic due to its emphasis on complex sauces and practice of slow-cooking dishes.

Now for Dessert! As a Pastry Chef looking to create a dish based on Creole New Orleans culture and history, I dove right into their native dessert menus for inspiration.

Their starting 5 included Bread pudding, Pralines, Bananas foster, Pecan pie and the classic Mardi Gras King Cake. I wanted to create a dessert with layers, color, depth and textures. After mixing and matching dessert bases and colors to match them with, I landed. I decided to develop a Blacked Out Croissant Bread Pudding topped with NOLA’s classic Bananas Foster, vanilla ice cream and fresh mint.

Croissant Bread Pudding is a concept I was introduced to when working in bakeries and needing to bring a bit of innovation and feeling of elegance to a traditional Bread Pudding. Being that croissants are a significant staple of France, I chose to not only make them, but turn it completely black to represent the integration of Black and French culture.

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I thought that this dessert deserved a topping. Bananas fosters came to my mind as the perfect fit in origin, flavor, and color.

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Story time: Bananas foster originated at the Brennan’s Restaurant in 1951 when Ella Brennan was asked to come up with a very special dessert, short notice, to honor the New Orleans Crime Commission chairman, Richard Foster.

I added the vanilla ice cream and mint to tie everything together for a full flavorful bite.

When moving into the set design, I incorporated bright colors that popped, much like I had seen and noticed in New Orleans architecture, especially in the buildings that line Bourbon Street.

Consider yourself formally introduced to Table Manners: The Food Blog’s first food art installation. This blog is where my passion and skill for pastry will be shown in its true form and developed through the locations, music, fashion, art, styles and colors that inspire me.

You can expect a new installation every two weeks, so make sure to check back in!

See you next time.

- Chef Nakai

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