Seven Incredible Women from the Culinary History of Northern Louisiana

by Chris Jay

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A black-and-white photo of Carolyn Flournoy and Marilee Harter

Carolyn Flournoy & Marilee Harter

Cooking and Dining Columnists
The Shreveport Times

In the mid-1970s, Carolyn Flournoy and Marilee Harter began co-authoring a biweekly cooking and dining column for The Shreveport Times. While the column mainly focused on cooking and entertaining at home, Flournoy and Harter would occasionally jet off to a cooking school in France or a dinner with James Beard and report on their experience for the Times.

They became local celebrities, teaching seminars and hosting cooking demonstrations all over Shreveport. They interviewed culinary personalities ranging from Jacques Pépin to Justin Wilson and documented the home cooking traditions of locals. 

Both, in their own unique ways, have contributed enormously to the continuing popularity of Shreveport cookbooks like A Cook’s Tour of Shreveport and Revel. While Flournoy helped edit these books, Harter gave them their greatest marketplace when she founded the Centenary College Book Bazaar.    

Flournoy passed away in 2003 and Harter in 2005.

Ernestine Moody

Owner and Chef
Moody’s Café

Back in 2013, I found myself tucked into a corner of Ernestine Moody’s kitchen during a busy Thursday lunch service at Moody’s Café in Minden.  

Alma and Mattie Moody, Ernestine’s grandparents, opened the restaurant in 1951 to serve patrons of the adjoining boarding house for Black travelers. They’d built the boarding house and restaurant by hand, over the course of six years, because there were so few places for Black travelers to stay in Minden. After 30 years in the kitchen, Alma turned the business over to Ernestine in 1982. 

Having never seen or eaten cornbread like Moody’s “heavenly pan bread”—which is somehow both dense and airy at the same time, like good focaccia—I asked Ernestine Moody about the recipe.

She sized me up for a moment, perhaps deciding whether or not to get into it.

“I didn’t cook cornbread well before this,” she said, gesturing towards a nearby aluminum container filled with pan bread. “I didn’t cook pan bread well. I tried and tried, and it was just an absolute mess. I sat out in that dining room and I said ‘Lord, please, I know you can do it. Give me a recipe for cornbread.

“When I got ready to get my bowl and make my bread the next morning, it all just fell in place. He told me what to do. That’s why I call it my ‘heavenly cornbread.’”

If I were allowed to place a historical marker at one eatery in northern Louisiana, it would be Moody’s.

Moody’s is open, 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m., Monday through Friday at 601 Martin Luther King Dr. in Minden. 

Below: Ernestine Moody’s incredible business card.

A photo of Ann Gardner

Annie Mae Gardner

Longtime employee
Ray’s Pe Ge

Ray Pierce himself, the now-retired owner of Ray’s Pe Ge restaurant in Monroe, told DeltaStyle Magazine in 2004 that an employee named Annie Mae Gardner taught him how to make the restaurant’s signature gravy. That gravy has been served alongside roast beef po’ boys, burgers and hand-cut fries for 50 years or longer. In a 2005 interview with the Monroe News-Star, Pierce said that Ray’s Pe Ge sold about 2,500 roast beef po’ boys with gravy per week.

Somewhere along the way, restaurants all over Monroe-West Monroe started serving hamburgers and po’ boys with a cup of gravy. You can get an open-faced burger with gravy at Sweet T’s Southern Cooking, a po’boy or cheeseburger with gravy at Magic Grill, or a burger with Guinness gravy at Enoch’s Pub and Grill.  

Annie Mae Gardner set all of that in motion. Her obit in the Monroe News-Star on Jan. 7, 2012 read: “Annie Mae Gardner of Monroe, a chef, died Thursday.”

A black and white photograph of a smiling woman with short, curly black hair

Siu Fan Chow “Mama” Go

Chef and Kitchen Supervisor
Bamboo Restaurant and Kon Tiki

Most Shreveporters who remember Kon Tiki associate the fabled Polynesian restaurant on Youree Drive with its magnetic owner, Chek Wing Joe (see our video tribute to Joe here). But ask anyone who ever worked there, and they’ll tell you that “Mama” ran the kitchen.

Siu Fan Chow Go moved from Hong Kong to the U.S. in 1962, where she joined her husband Edward in Shreveport. For several years she operated a restaurant called Shanghai Cafè on North Market Street. In 1970, she and Edward were a part of the team that opened Kon Tiki. The pair left Kon Tiki in 1972 to spend a decade managing the kitchen at Jimmy Joe’s Bamboo Restaurant, then returned to Kon Tiki for many more years.

At least two generations of Shreveporters were introduced to Asian cuisine by way of Bamboo Restaurant and Kon Tiki—in other words, by “Mama” Go.

Fannie Rushing

Founder (No photo available)
Blue Light Café

Fannie Rushing founded Ruston’s Blue Light Café in 1970 at 902 Arlington St., just three blocks from the bustling campus of Louisiana Tech. Louisiana syndicated columnist Wiley Hilburn praised the restaurant as “a truly integrated establishment in Lincoln Parish.”

“When Fannie Rushing opened it, she grew vegetables in the back and picked them for the day, and we ate them for the noon meal,” regular customer Jim Kessler told The Times in 2009.

There’s not much about Rushing online, which is a shame. I would like to learn more about her. If anyone knows more about her, please reach out at    

When Rushing retired, she passed the restaurant on to her sister, Eula Wright, who operated it for 16 years with husband David. After David passed away in 2010, Eula retired. Nina VenZant, Wright’s niece and a longtime Blue Light Café team member, reopened Blue Light Café at a new address in 2011. The restaurant is now closed.

Below: The original Ruston location of Blue Light Café in 2013.

Jacquelyn Caskey

Co-founder, Jacquelyn’s Café

A more detailed telling of the story of Jacquelyn’s Café is in the works, but this list would feel incomplete without Jacquelyn Caskey. Caskey was working as a secretary at LSUS in 1980 when she and her husband, Jimmy, decided on an impulse to open a restaurant—with no background whatsoever in the business—and wound up opening one of Shreveport’s most beloved lunch spots. Making this eventual outcome even less likely, Jacquelyn planned to serve as chef—and she did not know how to cook. 

In what would make a great treatment for a Netflix series, Caskey decided that the rational thing to do was approach the two most notoriously ill-tempered and exacting chefs in Shreveport, Chef Dietmar Molitor and Chef Shorty Lenard, and volunteer to work for them for free if they would teach her to cook.

This gonzo strategy apparently worked: Four decades later, Shreveporters still line up for Caskey’s popular shrimp salad, clam chowder, jambalaya, almond Jacq pie, and more.

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