During a short respite from Saturday’s rain, Chef Susan Spicer held up her queen’s scepter — an oversize golden whisk — and climbed onto her mule-drawn float parked in Jackson Square. Overhead, a dark sky threatened to open up at any moment. She raised an eyebrow. “I think we’ll make it to Harry’s,” she said, referring to the nearby French Quarter haunt, Harry’s Corner Bar.
In the end, Spicer and her massive whisk reigned over a very soggy two-hour parade, the
, a new
walking group devoted to the culinary arts of New Orleans. The small krewe of a few hundred people, accompanied by three brass bands and three mule-drawn floats, braved sheets of rain on Saturday for the group’s inaugural parade through the
The event, which they hope to continue each year, was a fundraiser for the New Orleans Navy League, which supports working sailors. Among other endeavors, the league sends celebrity chefs to cook for the crews of two ships named for this region: the U.S.S. New Orleans, which is based out of San Diego, and the U.S.S. Louisiana, out of Tacoma-Seattle, Wash.
But money for the chef program was tight, said John Kelly, the new parade’s captain and founder, and a Navy League board member. He named his new krewe after the iconic 19th-century writer Lafcadio Hearn, who was devoted to the city’s world-famous cuisine.
“Mardi Gras is the pagan feast prior to the Christian Lenten fast,” Kelly said, noting that the pagan aspect of the celebration is already covered pretty well. “So our krewe is going to focus on the feast, which happens to be one of the best aspects of New Orleans culture.”
On Saturday, by the time Spicer’s float had traveled one block to Harry’s, rain was streaming down from the sky and she was thoroughly sodden. Even parade participants who had the forethought to carry umbrellas couldn’t escape the torrent falling from the sky and the ankle-deep puddles in the street.
For the most part, the walking krewe was outfitted in chef jackets and hats or sous chef uniforms, although a group called the Hostess Cupcake Marching Brigade wore sassy brown dresses with white go-go boots. The brigade threw wrapped cupcakes to onlookers, who were thrilled to behold what one gleeful tourist called “real, actual Mardi Gras” in the midst of a day darkened by both a series of parade cancellations and overcast skies.
“You’re hard core!” yelled one tourist, as he held out an arm to beg for beads and one of the parade’s throws, a wooden spoon.
Locals were equally charmed. The staff from Croissant D’or Patisserie on Ursulines Street ran to the cafe’s front door and were showered with spoons and cupcakes and beads. A few doors down, a hotel concierge caught a cupcake in midair from a Hostess Cupcake gal.
“This is the way New Orleans rolls during Carnival,” he said proudly to a guest. “Rain don’t matter to us.”
The parade’s king, Chef John Besh, danced on top of his float to the music of the drenched-to-the bone Paulin Brothers Brass Band. He said he had nothing to complain about.
“I’m already wet — this is great,” he said with a grin, adjusting his rain-wilted chef’s hat.