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New Mardi Gras krewe founded by Black female chef rolls for first time   

Akasia Lee-Nicholas created The Culinary Queens of New Orleans, which combines New Orleans’ culinary passion with building connections.

A new Mardi Gras krewe founded by and operated by a Black female chef made its parade debut Tuesday night in the Jefferson Parish area of New Orleans. 

Akasia Lee-Nicholas, owner of Akasia’s Café, told Nola.com The Culinary Queens of New Orleans combines New Orleans’ culinary passion with building connections. 

According to its founder-operator Akasia Lee-Nicholas (above), the Mardi Gras krewe dubbed The Culinary Queens of New Orleans combines New Orleans’ culinary passion with building connections. (Photo: Screenshot/Facebook)

Lee-Nicholas said her crew was formed after her son, Devon Lee, died of an epileptic seizure at the age of 26 in 2019. She said she dealt with the loss through food and with the support of other women in the food business. “After I lost my son, I didn’t even want to live,” she said. “I needed something to flip the switch.” 

Thus, Culinary Queens was born. Their debut parade theme is “Eat, Drink and Be Merry.”

All members of the krewe are women who work in the hospitality industry or who run food and drink businesses. Their parade debuted with 15 floats and bands and marching units, and the ladies of Culinary Queens threw signature items like chef hats, spatulas, plastic wine goblets and glittery kitchen spoons. 

“It’s not just about the parade,” krewe member Lollie Allen told Nola.com. “That’s almost an extra. It’s about the network.” Allen is the owner of a bartending service called Clouds & Cocktails. 

The women also hoped Tuesday night’s parade would drive business to the female entrepreneurs. “It’s growing everybody’s business because we’re talking about each other and what they do,” said Desiree Narcisse of Dem Pies. “We’re bringing them with us into other rooms and opening those doors.”

The Culinary Queens of New Orleans’ parade began on Lapalco Boulevard at Berger Road and down Lapalco to Ames Boulevard, where it made a sharp left turn. It continued up Ames to the Westbank Expressway, where it turned right. The parade then ended on 5th Avenue at Johnny Jacobs Pool, according to WWLTV

Another all-woman krewe rolled out on Sunday. The Mystic Krewe of Femme Fatale honored women in the media for its parade. The grand marshal was WDSU-TV news anchor Gina Swanson.

This marks the first year that Mardi Gras parades officially returned to New Orleans since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

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