Saturday November 19, 2022 was a day I will never forget! That was the day that I prepared gumbo for my fellow Levine Scholars, Levine alumni, staff and friends of UNCC. The weather was perfect. It was sunny but chilly and what we Creoles and Cajuns call “gumbo weather.” The chill in the air made the bowls of warm gumbo so welcomed.
Weeks prior, Dr. Richardson had asked me to prepare my native dish. It was such a pleasure and honor to be asked by him to cook gumbo for our final tailgate. Not only was it our last football game of the season but it was also the game that our 49 Niners played Louisiana Tech, one of our home state teams. There was no way I could say no to that request. I later found out that I was the first guest chef to be asked to prepare a meal in this manner. Dr. Richardson sent out a very detailed email that placed a spotlight on me. It built excitement for the close of the football season which I really appreciated. It warmed my heart that fellow scholars came to me and shared how excited they were to try the gumbo.
My undertaking required a lot of planning, so I was thankful that Dr. Richardson had given me so much notice. Some of the key ingredients to gumbo, ie., roux, file, and my secret ingredient (not so secret anymore) shrimp powder were not readily available here in North Carolina and could not be ordered through a large retailer. Fortunately, my mother came to my rescue. She purchased and arranged shipment of all my necessities. You just can’t have gumbo without these key ingredients. Forturnately, I was able to secure everything else locally.
This was the first time that I was preparing gumbo for such a large number of people but I was ready. I felt it would be best to recruit a sous chef for this project. Eli Elk, my friend and a fellow scholar accepted the challenge. It took several hours to defrost, chop, wash and season all of the meat for the gumbo. Once in the pot, it took about 3 hours to finish the cooking. Eli did a great job and it was a good experience teaching him how to make one of our famous Louisiana dishes. Dr. Richardson and his wife were also there to provide support and assure that I had everything that I needed.
The gumbo was served with white rice and Dr. Richardson’s famous North Carolina potato salad. We also had bread for those who might not enjoy our Louisiana staple, rice. Everyone had a great time at the tailgate and most importantly, our dear 49 Niners won the game! The day was a success! We had good food, fellowship and a great end to the football season.
At the start of the semester, I never imagined that I would be asked to be a guest chef for such an event. I’m extremely grateful for the opportunity to share a piece of my culture with everyone here but I am also grateful for the trust that Dr. Richardson put in me to complete such a large undertaking. Seeing everyone happy and enjoying themselves is why I love to cook. The smiles and laughs made the whole experience worth it, and I’d do it again in a heartbeat.