Private Chef Hardette Harris was honored by Louisiana Life Magazine as one of eight Louisianians of the Year at the old State Capitol because she was selected by the legislature in 2015 to create north Louisiana’s official meal. That meal includes foods every Louisianian grew up eating: catfish, turnip greens, purple hull peas and hot water cornbread. Honored by Gov. John Bel Edwards and Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser, Harris said she never dreamed she would receive such a distinction.
Over the years, Harris said she noticed that Louisiana was celebrated for its south Louisiana cuisine, such as gumbo and jambalaya, but no one ever thought about the every day foods eaten in north Louisiana – greens, fried fish, purple hull peas and hot water cornbread.
“When you open a magazine or anything about this area, it was etouffe, gumbo, and we’re just taking on the whole Louisiana foods, even though that’s not what we ate at our backyard barbecues and celebrations and church gatherings,” she said. “Along with the private chef, I knew I wanted to have dinners that celebrated our food.”
In early 2014, she hosted a dinner at The Farm, and it was to celebrate north Louisiana food, she said.
“At that dinner was Rep. Gene Reynolds, and he said if there was anything he could do to let him know, and I wasn’t even thinking ‘official meal’ at that time,” she said. “After that, I wanted to sit down and figure out how to continue having these kinds of dinners.”
She didn’t find much during her research, but she did learn that one other state in the U.S., Oklahoma, has an official meal designated by its legislature. After calling Reynolds, House Concurrent Resolution 88, the official meal of north Louisiana, passed without a hitch. The official meal has about 30 items to choose from, with an appetizer, main dish, sides, bread, dessert and drink. The resolution passed in 2015 with a unanimous vote.
Harris is the daughter of Welton and Thelda Harris. She is a 1985 graduate of Minden High School.
She lives in Bossier City and attends Mt. Zion CME Church in Minden.