From serving future presidents to serving banquets of over 5,000 guests, Chef Leon has built an impressive career in full-service catering. Recently, he added an honor by being inducted into the prestigious African American Chefs Hall of Fame. He joins the exclusive ranks of only 8 other African American Chef inductees including Leah Chase, Joe Randall, Stanley Jackson, Patrick Clark, Darryl Evans, Robert W. Lee, Edna Lewis and Clifton Williams.
Chef Leon arrived in New Orleans with his wife and seven daughters in 1984 to accept the position of Executive Chef of the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center. At the time, the newly constructed building was in use as the centerpiece of the world’s fair. He served in the role of Executive Chef at the Convention Center for more than 20 years, where he catered prominent events such as the Republican party’s Salute to Nancy Reagan (4,200 guests), a $1,000 per plate fundraiser for George Bush (5,000 guests), the 1977 and 1986 NFL Commissioner’s Party, and large corporate events including one that involved serving over 35,000 people in a 24-hour period.
Recognized among his peers both locally and internationally as one of New Orleans’ most talented chefs, Chef Leon has pleased the most discriminating palettes and has the unique ability to adapt from small elegant functions to large banquets. He hones his trade through continued training with the Culinary Institute having successfully completed courses in Ingredients and Flavor Dynamics and Pro Chef.
Chef also routinely participates in annual community events including Dollars for Scholars, YMCA, Christmas in October, Friends of City Par, Great Expectations, N.O. Aids Task Force, Cherish the Children and the Sugarplum Ball to benefit Children’s Hospital. He works closely with the Second Harvesters Food Bank as well as the Bridge House and Ozanam Inn to help feed those in need. Additionally, Chef participated in an event recognizing thirty-five local Chefs to raise money for both Children’s Hospital and New Orleans Culinary Students.
Messina’s Catering & Events
Chef Leon joined our Messina’s team as Executive Chef in 2014 to focus more on off-site catering, festivals, corporate catering, private residence catering, weddings, crawfish boils, Mardi Gras coronations, balls and debutante events. Messina’s is a full-service caterer with two commissaries, portable equipment and a fleet of logo’d trucks & vans to service large-scale off-site catering events. Chef and the Messina’s team focus on presenting the latest culinary trends integrated with New Orleans classis. Fresh gulf and local seafood serve as staples of our catering menus, and are paired with farm-to-table produce from surrounding parishes such as Washington, Tangipahoa and Livingston.
An active member in the New Orleans Chapter of the American Culinary Federation (ACFNO), Chef Leon has also been awarded the chapter’s President’s award. He has also received “Chef of the Year” honors from the ACF in 1996, served as Executive Chef for the Taste of the NFL in 2002, received the American Culinary Federation Medallion for Culinary Excellence in 2011 and served as the Maitre Des Cuisines at the International Culinary Society’s exclusive Chaine Des Rotisseurs’ dinner three times.
The African American Chefs Hall of Fame is a recognition program that celebrates the living history of African American chefs and highlights those individuals whose extraordinary contributions have made American Cuisine, and use, possible. The program was launched by the Taste of Heritage Foundation in 1993 and today has 9 inductees.