BLACK HISTORY MONTH: Orlandeaux’s Cross Lake Café comes full circle
Familiy legacy began 101 years ago
SHREVEPORT, La. (KSLA) - First it was Freeman & Harris, then Pete Harris, then Brother’s, and now Orlandeaux’s. Through the years, the name and ownership has changed, but it’s the same great food.
KSLA’s Domonique Benn sat down with Damien “Chapeaux” Chapman for a special segment for Black History Month. Chapman owns Orlandeaux’s Cross Lake Café.
He remembers as a little boy, he would run through the family’s restaurant. He would hear stories of how the south was segregated, but his family’s restaurant, Freeman & Harris, was one of the only restaurants in Shreveport where whites and Blacks could eat together.
“It’s amazing to think that so many people have lost their lives and blood, sweat, and tears, but one thing about it is we all love to eat. Just to think the culture through food could bring so much peace and so much love and togetherness, no matter the color, the race, the background, and where you are from, to enjoy some stuffed shrimp, fish, and some gumbo,” said Chapman.
Freeman & Harris was founded in 1921 by Chapman’s great great great uncles, Jack Harris and Van Freeman. The two were first cousins from Natchitoches in the Cane River (Campti) area. Harris and Freeman came to Shreveport and started the restaurant, Freeman & Harris. The business was passed down through the generations. It went from being called Freeman & Harris Café to Pete Harris Café (named after Chapman’s grandfather’s cousin). His great grandfather helped run the restaurant. When Pete Harris passed away, the next generation named the restaurant Pete Harris Café as a tribute. Then it was passed down as Brother’s Seafood, which Chapman’s father, Orlando Chapman, owned and named after his own father, who people affectionately called “Brother.” In 2013, Orlando Chapman died after a medical incident at Cross Lake when he went to check on something on his boat.
Damien Chapman, who has a degree from Southern University in Baton Rouge, was working in Texas when he got the news of his father’s passing. For a while, Chapman tried to have his career and run the restaurant too, but the restaurant was suffering and he knew he had to commit to it full time. He took over and renamed the restaurant Orlando’s as a tribute to his father. The name was later changed to Orlandeaux’s, with a French twist on the spelling.
During the interview, Chapman was emotional as he spoke of his father. Ironically, he now owns the restaurant, which is within eyeshot of where his father took his last breath on that boat dock on Cross Lake.
“Every day that I am here, I am able to feel his presence and him just working through me and making sure that I am doing everything I can to continue the family’s legacy,” Chapman said.
He says his father had a heart as deep and wide as Cross Lake and would do whatever he could for so many. He fed displaced Hurricane Katrina evacuees when they relocated to Shreveport in 2005.
Another full circle moment is the location he moved his restaurant to just recently. It was once called Smith’s Cross Lake Inn, where only whites were allowed to eat. But Chapman says there were Black male waiters (his grandfather was one of them). Now, Chapman owns the restaurant in which his grandfather once served others.
“Shreveport has been a part of my family’s business for 101 years and just to say that so many people weren’t able to make it through this pandemic, it is a blessing. From my family to the rest of Shreveport, we thank you for 100 Black History months of being a part and to continue to support us through our changes, through the struggles, through the ups and downs. We aren’t perfect, but we are here just to be everything we can be for Shreveport and give us a better community altogether,” said Chapman.
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