Spotlight On Soul
Chef Hardette Harris celebrates regional cuisine for “Us Up North”
Chef Hardette Harris, owner and chef of The Us Up North Kitchen, is bringing back the soulful definition of southern cuisine.
The eatery is located in the old “Fuller Store” at 300 N. Allen Ave. in Shreveport, a former corner grocery that was built to support the Allendale neighborhood after the construction of Fuller homes. The Us Up
North Kitchen will celebrate its grand opening on Aug. 28, offering Louisiana-based cooking styles and flavors for lunch on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays.
“The restaurant is a celebration of North Louisiana cuisine. It won’t be a typical soul food restaurant, but it will be my way of offering dishes that are indigenous to North Louisiana.” Harris, who is also chef and owner at Pure Louisiana Soul – Food Tours and Culinary Experiences, said, “I’m preparing dishes the way my parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles did. Being to be able to share it is a feeling I can’t describe.”
Professionally, Harris secured her first private client in 1999 a year before graduating culinary school — but essentially, she’s been cooking since she was 7 years old. “I loved cooking with my parents when I was younger,” Harris said. Family continues to remain a priority to her, and she fondly refers to her customers as “cousins.”
Customers — or rather, “cousins” — are in for a tasty treat. According to Harris, the grand opening won’t hold a lot of fanfare, but it will offer a ton of food. “I want to cook a little bit of everything and offer samples of future specials,” Harris said.
Originally from Minden, Harris was named by Louisiana Life Magazine as a “2017 Louisianan of the Year,” one of Country Roads Magazine’s 2017 Best Small-Town Chefs and Shreveport-Bossier Convention and Tourism Bureau’s 2018 “Attraction of the Year.” She also received their 2019 Convention and Tourism Sales Department Award. Harris writes a recurring column called “Up North” in the Louisiana Kitchen & Culture magazine and is a recipe contributor to LOLA Magazine. She can also be seen in the PBS Digital Series, “Nourish, The Great Cornbread Debate.”
And that’s not all. In 2015, Harris proudly announced the history-making creation of North Louisiana’s official meal. “I worked with State Rep. Gene Reynolds to develop the State of Louisiana’s first official meal—one of only two official state meals in the United States, bringing recognition to the culinary uniqueness of North Louisiana,” Harris said.
On Apr. 29, 2015, House Concurrent Resolution No. 88 was read on the House floor by title and concurred by 33 unanimous votes. Then, on May 4, 2015, it was enrolled and signed by the Speaker of the House and the President of the Senate. The official meal includes items such as cabbage, collards, mustards, turnips, barbecue chicken, fried catfish, baked ham, sweet potatoes, potato salad, hot water cornbread, pound cake, pecan pie and peach cobbler, to name a few.
“Being the creator of the official meal of North Louisiana, I love everything on the menu!” Harris laughed.
Harris is especially a big fan of field peas. “I love preparing dishes that I like, so that would include purple hull peas, cream peas and crowder peas,” Harris said. “I’m also a fan of greens — there’s nothing like a big bowl of mustard and turnip greens, tomato, cucumber and onion salad with hot water cornbread over the top!” If your stomach isn’t growling yet, it will be by Aug. 28. “I’m one of those chefs that cooks from the heart, and I hope it translates to the plate of my ‘cousins’,” Harris said. “I like to know my ‘family’ is enjoying a dish they haven’t had in a long time or haven’t had it prepared in a way that reminds of true southern cooking.”
Harris has provided many different food services to both individuals and corporations over the years as a private chef in Louisiana and Texas. She hopes to start a love affair between North Louisiana dishes and the rest of the world by making sure every tourist and visitor to the state taste “what we eat up north.”
“You can go anywhere across the globe and say that you’re from Louisiana, and the response will be something relating to New Orleans and the food there,” Harris said. “It’s happened to me many times, especially when I was living in Texas. My response would be ‘What about us up north?’ I’d have to explain that there were many cities and towns in the state, and I’m not from New Orleans. I’m from up north. We were and are constantly being left out!” But no longer, thanks to Harris and The Us Up North Kitchen. For more information on The Us Up North Kitchen, visit www.usupnorth.com.