New Orleans chefs celebrate Mardi Gras, parade in Krewe of Lafcadio Saturday

Forget shoes and coconuts, New Orleanians have a new throw to covet this year: wooden spoons. Move over Top Chef, Iron Chef, and Master Chef. The inaugural procession of the Krewe of Lafcadio will roll Saturday, Feb. 18. Dedicated to honoring the culinary arts, New Orleans chefs will be paraded through the French Quarter on mule drawn floats, hailed as royalty.

John_Besh.JPGJohn Besh will reign as king of the Krewe of Lafcadio on Saturday in the French Quarter.

"Mardi Gras is the pagan feast prior to the Christian Lenten fast. When you consider New Orleans has some of the best food in the country, you can't celebrate the culinary arts without celebrating the culinary leaders," Krewe of Lafcadio Captain John Kelly said.

The royalty this year will be James Beard award-winning chefs Susan Spicer and John Besh.

“Not only do we want to celebrate the culinary arts but we want to promote the culinary arts, so we are going to give out 14-inch wooden spoons. We hope everyone will take them home and make a good roux,” Kelly said.

Festivities will begin with a second line at 1:30 p.m. proceeding from Galvez restaurant to Jackson Square.

“We weren't going to just walk three blocks when we have three great brass bands available to us,” Kelly said. Featured bands include the Free Agents Brass Band, the Paulin Brothers brass band, and the Refried Confuzion Blowhard Brass Band.

The parade, scheduled to begin at 2 p.m., will roll downriver on Chartres Street from St. Ann to Ursuline, where it will cross from Chartres to Royal. The procession will head upriver on Royal, turn onto Bienville and eventually turn onto Bourbon. The parade will then proceed downriver on Bourbon to St. Ann.

Like kitchen staffs, the krewe will be organized in brigades. Spicer’s honor guard will be a baker’s dozen of Nancy Sinatra-inspired Hostess Cupcakes.

susan-spicer.jpgSusan Spicer will reign over the inaugural Krewe of Lafcadia on Saturday in the French Quarter.

“We are reaching out to folks in the restaurant industry, people from the Navy league and folks from out of town,” Madame Captain Ganache said, who asked to keep her identity secret. “One of the cupcakes is from New York and one is from Miami.”

The new krewe is named for the writer Lafcadio Hearn, who wrote about New Orleans and penned an early Creole cookbook.

In a letter to a friend, dated from the late 19th century, Hearn famously expressed his love for New Orleans, “Its condition is so bad that when I write about it, as I intend to do soon, nobody will believe I am telling the truth. But it is better to live here in sackcloth and ashes than to own the whole state of Ohio.”

Organizers felt Hearn embodied their aspirations as a krewe.

“Mardi Gras is about celebrating the good things and in a kind of hedonistic way,” Kelly said. “You are having something good to eat and drink, and Lafcadio is all about that. He celebrated what was good and satirized what was bad.”

BRIGTSEN TO BE HONORED: The John Folse Culinary Institute will present the Lafcadio Hearn Award, presented annually to an icon of Louisiana food and culture, to Chef Frank Brigtsen on March 5 at Nicholls State.