Destinations, Oysters, Restaurants

They’re Talkin’ Bout Us: The Kitchenista and how a Gene’s po-boy changed her life

On her first trip to NOLA she got to meet Leah Chase. We’re jealous.

If you’re on Twitter, you’ve seen Angela Davis’ posts. She’s better known by her handle The Kitchenista, and one look at the pictures of the food coming from her Virginia kitchen and your mouth will water. What’s even more impressive is that she’s a self-taught home cook, food blogger, recipe developer, food photographer and mom on top of it all.

For her first trip to New Orleans, she attended a workshop and sat down with us to dish about what she ate and how simple things like hot sauce on a catfish po-boy can change your life.

Can you tell me a little about the workshop that brought you here?

“I came here for a workshop organized by Dr. Howard Conyers and Adrian Miller (@soulfoodscholar). They basically put together a weekend of fellowship for black food professionals, centered around a whole cow BBQ that we did on Saturday. On Friday we met, all of us in the same room. There were black chefs, food writers, food media personalities. We all know each other from online but we’ve never met in person so it was cool to network and see what projects we’re working on and what we could do together in the future.”

Friday you got to meet Mrs. Leah Chase. What was that like?

“That was incredible. We had a private luncheon at Dooky Chase and they set up the buffet, so we started with gumbo, then the buffet and she came out afterwards. I didn’t know we were going to meet her. I was just happy to be there, but when she came out, you can’t even put words into that moment, to see her in person. She just started talking about how proud she was of us, and that was just amazing to me to hear that from somebody that’s such a legend that she was a part of the work that we were doing. She called out the women that are choosing to be in the kitchen, and how much that means. I’m tearing up thinking about it. She gave us the history of what it was like when she was working in the kitchen and how few of us there were. And she’s funny, I could sit there and listen to her all day.”

What was the best thing you had there?

“The fried chicken. I mean you eat fried chicken everywhere and you don’t expect it to be this mind-blowing experience but I’ve never had fried chicken like that. It was just tender inside. I had a thigh and it was just falling apart but it was still juicy, but it was light and it was just perfect. I was like, ‘I need to go back and rethink my own recipe.’ The other standout for me was the butter beans and shrimp. I grew up not liking lima beans. I recently started learning to like lima beans when I went to Charleston I had them, and ever since then I’m kind of intrigued. So that was another dish that I’d like to try at home.”

When you knew you were coming here, did you look up restaurants?

“I rarely do that because I get so overwhelmed with recommendations. When I’m on social media, if I say I’m going to New Orleans, I’ll get like 50 recommendations and I get overwhelmed. So I decided to come, I knew I had plans for most of Friday and Saturday, and I would just play it by ear and go with the flow. The surprise for me was that I love the hotel (The Eliza Jane) so much that I stayed here a lot. They have three bars here, the oyster bar is great, they have good breakfast. Last night I had the oysters, they’re huge! They have steak tartare and the cocktails have been great. We went out to Bourbon House and mostly we had fresh seafood. Saturday night we went to Blue Nile for drinks and the only thing open when we got out was Gene’s. I had a catfish po-boy that was life-altering. It’s just hot sauce and tartar sauce. It’s just simple things and you don’t realize how much better it’s going to be until four o’clock in the morning.”

So you leave today, you mentioned you have to get to Cafe Du Monde.

“Yes, and I’d like to find a local marker that I can find some sausage to bring back with me, and I’d like to go to a soul food spot. I have a craving for real grits before I leave, and BBQ shrimp.”

Was there anything that you learned about food here that you’re going to bring back with you?

“Saturday was the whole cow BBQ which was the reason we all came here. It was called Gumbo Jubilee, and it was a celebration of Creole, Gulla Geechee and Haitian culture. So we were represented across the diaspora. I think it’s important to try those dishes. I mean, you can’t walk into every restaurant and get the food that we had. It’s just a reminder that we’re only one generation away from losing a lot of this because people don’t know how to make it, and people haven’t even had it.”

Anything else you want to add about being here?

“Just the need to keep cooking. For me, it solidified why I’m doing this. When I started as a food blogger, it was a personal journey. It was, ‘I need to learn how to do this and I need to learn how to provide for myself,’ and then it became a community of people wanting to learn how to cook. It really resonates for me around the holidays, because so many young women that have never made mac and cheese or southern collard greens or they don’t know how to roast a chicken or a turkey. And I’m teaching them those things, and now they’re able to carry those things and traditions to their family. So, a lot of what we talked about this weekend kind of resonated with me because people do want to learn these things, but I think you have to keep putting it in front of them, and keep drilling how important it is for us to maintain these traditions because it’s being lost. I’m taking that back with me; to keep going.”

You can follow Angela on Instagram and Twitter @TheKitchenista, or click here to visit her blog, The Kitchenista Diaries.