We first met Chef Hardette Harris during a photo shoot for our local Boss Babes group. There was something about her that was magnetic. Although she seems reserved when meeting her, intuition spoke that this lady was pretty special. I knew that she was a chef and clearly lovely, but I had no idea all that she has accomplished and her passion for Southern Cuisine. When I reached out to her regarding an interview to learn more about her she invited us to her home for a visit; for a visit and fried chicken. This fried chicken! I am telling you, I have never had yard bird come close to this little piece of heaven. As we sat with Chef Harris her story began to unfold. By the time we left her home, with a to go box of fried chicken and cornbread in tow- We were Chef Harris fans. This woman is a go getter, with a beautiful spirit and talent for Southern cuisine that will knock your socks off.
Hardette Harris was born and raised in Minden Louisiana. She attended The Art Institute of Houston and has a degree in Culinary Arts. Chef Harris spent a total of 24 years in Houston working on both her culinary skills and working for the Houston Police Department. Soon after leaving Houston she spent four years as a personal chef in San Antonio and returned to Shreveport in 2013 to be closer to her parents. When returning to Louisiana she began to notice something about North Louisiana that concerned her. She said “When people spoke about Louisiana cuisine they talked about gumbo and jambalaya.” Growing up in Louisiana herself, she loves gumbo and jambalaya, but that is South Louisiana staples. North Louisiana has it’s own set of staples. Chef Harris said “North Louisiana has it’s own identity. We have our own culture. We go to our local farmers markets and cook in our own backyards foods to be proud of, and I wanted the rest of the world to know this. We are more than gumbo and jambalaya.” She wanted to offer special dinners that celebrated North Louisiana cuisine so she researched “North Louisiana dishes” for menu ideas and as expected, she found nothing. She made it her mission to do something about it. She contacted her state Representative Gene Reynolds and inquired about making a meal official. She submitted the “Official Meal of North Louisiana”. A few weeks passed and she was contacted by Rep. Reynolds office. They wanted to know exactly how the she suggests the menu is to read. April 28, 2015 it was read on the floor of the House and May 4, 2015, with thirty-three yeas and zero nays it became the became official meal of North Louisiana, the second of only two “official meals” in our country. Now, we all love New Orleans cuisine, but North Louisiana can now be proud of our fried chicken, turnip greens, black-eyed peas and good’ ol hot water cornbread.
Chef Harris has had the honor of being published in a James Beard award winning book “Soul Food: The Surprising Story of an American Cuisine, One Plate at a Time” by Adrian Miller. She cooked for Adrian Miller during her 2014 Dream Dinner where he was the special speaker in Minden, Louisiana. The Dream Dinner was a registered Points of Light Sunday Supper, an event dedicated to service and dialogue in keeping Dr. King’s dream alive.
Chef Harris is doing things way bigger than any typical day job. You can find hosting her Seasons & Traditions farm to table dinner series that she partners with Mahaffey Farms. She is also a private chef, she books food tours in the SBC area for groups and tourists, she hosts cooking parties and cooking classes for both adults and children. This year she was named a 2017 Louisianian of Year by Louisiana Life Magazine. This is a prestigious honor given to only eight individuals each year. In April she traveled to Baton Rouge and received her award from Governor John Bel Edwards and Lieutenant Governor William Nungesser. She also has book deal with History Press to write the Culinary History of North Louisiana. This is just to name a few of her endeavors.
We asked Chef Harris to share her recipe for fried chicken. She agreed. I am not sure if we will ever be able to do it quite like she does, but this recipe is a true treasure, as is Chef Hardette Harris.
The Best Fried Chicken Ever
3 lbs bone-in chicken pieces
1 ½ tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 TB Total Chicken Seasoning (any brand)
1 TB Seasoning Salt purpose seasoning (any brand)
2 cups all-purpose flour
Dash of Salt
Dash of garlic powder
1 tsp of baking soda
Wash chicken and pat dry.
Mix all spices in a large bowl. Add chicken and coat. Let marinate at least one hour or up to 24 hours.
Whisk flour, salt and pepper, garlic powder and baking soda together in a bowl.
Dredge chicken pieces in flour mixture, shake off excess flour and set aside. Place floured chicken on plate and let sit for at least 5 minutes.
After preheating oil to 355, dredge chicken again, shaking off excess and lower into about 3 inches of hot oil. Fry for about 4 -5 minutes, turn over and fry for an additional 4 minutes until golden brown or frying has quieted.
Remove chicken and drain on a wire rack or paper towel.
Written by: Bevin Hicks Photo: Brittany Strickland