A Brief History of New Orleans Cuisine

2018 marks the Big Easy’s 300th birthday. Here’s a look back at some of the city’s famous foods and culinary stars.

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1817

America’s obsession with New Orleans food starts early: Thomas Jefferson plants okra in his Monticello garden and the harvest is used to make “okra soup,” a version of gumbo.

1840

Frenchman Antoine Alciatore opens Antoine’s, the nation’s oldest family-run restaurant. In 1899, his son Jules invents oysters Rockefeller.

1906

The owner of Central Grocery, an Italian market in the French Quarter, comes up with an easy way for Sicilian farmers to eat their lunch of meat, cheese and olive salad: He piles it all on muffuletta bread, creating the now-famous sandwich.

1913

Laura’s Candies, New Orleans’s oldest sweets shop, opens. Locals and visitors still flock there for Louisiana’s signature confection: the praline.

1923

Leah Chase, the future queen of Creole cuisine, is born. At 94 years old, she still runs the kitchen at her renowned restaurant Dooky Chase.

1929

Brothers Clovis and Bennie Martin create the po’boy sandwich as a cheap way to feed hundreds of striking streetcar workers.

1947

New Orleans chef and author Lena Richard becomes the first African-American woman to host her own TV cooking show.

1951

To honor Richard Foster’s appointment as chairman of the city’s Crime Commission, Brennan’s restaurant starts serving bananas Foster — flambéed bananas with vanilla ice cream.

1975

Chef Paul Prudhomme is hired at the prestigious Commander’s Palace restaurant and introduces the fine-dining crowd to homestyle Cajun cooking.

1986

The beignet — a powdered sugar–coated pillow of fried dough made famous at Café du Monde — is declared the state doughnut.

1994

Bam! The Essence of Emeril premieres on Food Network, turning chef Emeril Lagasse into a household name.

2010

Haydel’s Bakery breaks the world record for largest king cake by making two cakes that encircle the Superdome.

2016

The city’s official cocktail, the rye-based Sazerac, stars in the documentary The New Orleans Sazerac at the Cannes Film Festival.