At age 35, Ernestine “Tootie” Morrison enrolled in culinary school. The Frierson native spent half of her life waiting tables at chain restaurants in Shreveport and raising two sons. As her oldest son prepared to leave home, she’d begun to think seriously about making a career out of her interest in cooking.
“I wanted to know what the world was about for me,” Morrison says. “Who was I supposed to be, other than a wife and a mom?”
After graduation, she “begged her way” into a job as a line cook at Macaroni Grill. Later, she worked as a corporate trainer for Chili’s Grill & Bar before assuming the role of executive chef at Abby Singer’s Bistro at Robinson Film Center in downtown Shreveport. In her time at Abby Singer’s Bistro, Morrison has become well known for her artful approach to southern staples such as shrimp and grits, gumbo and chicken and waffles. In 2015, she won the $5,000 Louisiana Food Prize competition and appeared on the Food Network’s “Guy’s Grocery Games.”
Though she now answers to “chef,” Morrison is quick to point out that she’s hung onto the titles of “mom” and “wife.”
“People think that the professional kitchen is a man’s world, but it’s not,” Morrison says. “My youngest son suggested that I get a knife tattooed on me, which I thought was hilarious. I don’t need a sleeve of tattoos and a slab of beef thrown over my shoulder. I can lead a kitchen and still be soft, approachable and feminine.”
Abby Singer’s Bistro
617 Texas St., Shreveport
Abby Singer’s Duck Nachos
1 package wonton wrappers, cut into triangles for chips and fried
8 ounces crumbled goat cheese
1 lime, cut in half and grilled (for garnish)
2 ½ pounds duck meat, pulsed in food processor until completely broken down
1 onion, diced
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon each ground cumin, dried sage, chili powder and smoked paprika
1 can chipotle peppers in adobo
¼ cup red wine vinegar
½ bunch cilantro, chopped
Cilantro sour cream
16 ounce container sour cream
juice of one lime
1 tablespoon kosher salt
½ bunch cilantro, chopped
1. Combine duck meat, onion and salt in a pot. Cook on medium heat until duck is no longer pink and the onion has softened. Add spices, mix well.
2. With your spoon, break the duck mixture down until it is completely crumbled. Add chipotle and adobo sauce and red wine vinegar. Allow mixture to simmer for 10-15 minutes on low flame.
3. While the duck mixture simmers, prepare the cilantro sour cream and fry the wonton chips.
4. Place wonton chips on a plate and sprinkle crumbled goat cheese over chips. Top with duck mixture and drizzle cilantro sour cream over each serving. Garnish with more fresh cilantro and a grilled lime half.