The father, the son, and the holy ghost are three of the most important ingredients in a Creole dish. This holy trinity of spices, mixed with willing hands and a dash of tender loving care, has carried chef Austin Leslie from the heart of the seventh ward of New Orleans to Denmark and back.
According to Leslie, in a Creole dish, the holy trinity includes an onion, celery, and a bell pepper. Selling authentic spices grown in a garden off the corner of North Tonti and Miro was one of the first lessons that taught him the importance of the trinity and gave him a love for the preparation of food and led him to being the "Godfather of fried chicken".
His journey has now landed him at Pampy’s Restaurant and Bar, a Creole restaurant gently placed on Broad Street just five minutes from Dillard. Parking around the 2000th block of Broad on a Friday night may be challenging because according to Stan Barre, the owner of the restaurant, an excellent reputation for martinis and the atmosphere provided by the soulful sounds of pianist and performer Frank Richard are what draws people into the restaurant. Leslie, a recent addition to the atmosphere, plans to help make the atmosphere more well rounded with good food to top off the evening.
"The restaurant business is hard," Barre said describing the challenges faced in owning a restaurant. "You don’t get the support that you think you would get being in a neighborhood."
Several larger restaurant chains have proven to be some of the major competition the restaurant has to face. "The big chains are hard to pull people out of," Barre said.
Barre believes that the new chef will help attract more people to the restaurant and Leslie has risen to the occasion.
Leslie is a new addition to the Pampy’s environment, but he is no stranger to the kitchen. With every dish being his favorite dish, Leslie has new ideas and recipes to add to the restaurant. He and Barre share plans to enhance the quality of the foods offered and expand the restaurant’s menu.
"He’s going to bring something we didn’t have here: black skill at cooking. He’s a master at it," Barre said of Leslie.
Leslie also believes that he adds something extra to the staff at Pampy’s.
"Me being here with my reputation gives it a spark. I’m like the quarterback. All I need is some receivers," Leslie said.
Though he has only been with the restaurant for three weeks, Leslie hopes to make a few soulful additions to the menu. He wants to add his stuffed pork chop, veal cutlets, stuffed mirlitons, and a variety plate that offers a taste of New Orleans.
"A lot of people donÃt know what they want to eat, but they want a taste of New Orleans and weÃre going to give them that because we have the resources to do it," Leslie said.
Many other dishes may be on their way to the PampyÃs menu, but for now, Leslie’s fried chicken is a major addition.
Known to New Orleans and many parts of the nation as the "Godfather of Fried Chicken", Leslie has offered his famous recipe to his new home and is looking forward to the opportunity to only have a "hands on" approach to the business.
Leslie says his 55 years of chicken experience started when he was 15 years old and a man named William Turner taught him to fry chicken. Since then, it has been a skill he has perfected over the years.
One of LeslieÃs goals is to teach the next generation of great Creole chefs recipes and skills involved in cooking that have been handed down to him. "He knows what I can do. He’s allowing me to show these young men my expertise," Austin said, "It’s not about me, it’s about we."
As a child, the kitchen was Leslie’s headquarters as well as his learning place. Leslie sold spices and made trips to the grocery store to "make groceries" for his relatives and those close to him. He would help his mother, aunts, and caretaker, the best he could to make authentic Creole dishes and Soul foods.
Through his time spent in the kitchen, he learned how to make cornbread from "scratch" and took several other dishes he learned how to make and has improved them to make them better.
Before his days a Pampy’s, Leslie worked diligently at his aunt’s restaurant, Chez Helene`, which served the New Orleans area from 1964 until 1994.
Leslie was also a technical advisor for a situation comedy Leslie says was created partially in his image named and "FrankÃs Place". The show starred Tim Reed and his wife and aired for two years.
Several other opportunities opened for him and now, 10 years later, he has found a new home at Pampy’s.
Barre says though the restaurant has not reached its peak, he looks forward to expanding and improving with Leslie.
Leslie’s experience has helped him develop many skills over the years.
"I know how to cut meat, I know how to make sauces. I’m Jack of all trades, I don’t master," Leslie said.
Leslie says New Orleans is the food capital of the world because of its unique culture. He credits some of the unique taste found in Creole foods made in New Orleans to the water. Leslie says that when he has made gumbo in other places, it tastes different because the water in New Orleans comes from the Mississippi river and it tastes different.
Whether it’s the water or the seasonings found in the authentic Creole recipes used by Leslie, he according to lore, is both the Godfather of Fried Chicken and a chef par excellence.