On the final day of the 2018 New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, Brint Anderson played his final show with George Porter Jr. and the Runnin’ Pardners.
Well, maybe not the final show. But after 26 years of being funk-bass master Porter’s guitarist, Anderson has a new menu. On April 12, his 64th birthday, he opened StrEAT Parade, a festively decorated food truck on the scenic riverfront at Natchez, Mississippi.
During the Runnin’ Pardners’ Jazz Fest set, Porter endorsed Anderson’s change of venue. “If I could afford it, I would hire him to cook for me every day,” he told the crowd at the Gentilly Stage. “The man can cook!”
“When we parted ways, I hugged George,” Anderson said a few days later. “I told him I loved him. He told me the same thing. I appreciate everything George has done for me.”
“I am sorry to see him go, but we know it is for his first love,” Porter said later. “And that is okay with me.”
“This is one of my loves,” Anderson confirmed. “And it’s not like I will never play with George again. I just can’t commit to working all the time.”
Anderson named his StrEAT Parade food truck after Earl King’s song about New Orleans revelry, “Street Parade.” King, Eddie Bo, Johnny Adams, Snooks Eaglin, Clarence “Frogman” Henry, Art Neville and Al “Carnival Time” Johnson are among the classic New Orleans rhythm-and-blues artists he’s backed on stage.
Tourists who disembark from the riverboats that dock in Natchez, Anderson’s hometown, can’t miss his business. The big yellow truck features a giant image of a court jester. “I wanted it to be Mardi Gras-ish and eye-catching,” Anderson said on a Monday morning at his regular spot on Broadway Street. The StrEAT Parade menu includes frankfurters shipped overnight from New York City, smoked chicken salad, sausage sliders, eggs benedict, macaroni and cheese, meatloaf sandwiches and cheese grits.
“Mondays most downtown restaurants in Natchez are closed,” Anderson said. “Tourists were asking me all the time, ‘Where can we eat on Monday?’ Now you got a place. I’m open for business.”
Anderson is also the official chef for the bar and music venue next door to StrEAT Parade, Smoot’s Grocery Blues Lounge. He plays music at Smoot’s, too. “That’s another thing about me moving back home to Natchez,” Anderson said. “I’ll always be able to play around here.”
Anderson does solo gigs in Natchez and, occasionally, he performs with local bands. Many of his musician peers from Natchez who left for careers elsewhere have also moved home. “I couldn’t be happier,” Anderson said. “And there’s all kinds of history here, just like New Orleans. I refer to Natchez as a miniature of New Orleans.”
During his childhood in Natchez and Vidalia, the city just across the river in Louisiana, Anderson spent much time in the kitchen with his mother and grandmother. “They were great cooks,” he remembered. “And we always had big dinner parties at the house. I was my mom’s prep cook. I always loved it. It’s just another form of art.”
Anderson’s late mother wanted him to attend culinary school. After her death in 2004, he studied culinary arts in her honor at Delgado Community College in New Orleans. And because Porter was busy in 2005 with PBS, his trio with Russell Batiste, Jr. and Brian Stoltz, Anderson had time to study cooking, work at Ralph’s on the Park and, in the months after Hurricane Katrina, Bacco in the French Quarter.
“We were rolling at Bacco,” he said. “I was cooking bread pudding in the pizza oven with wood. We used propane so we could boil water outside to wash pots and pans. Everything was served with plastic utensils.”
Following about a year on the Bacco staff, Anderson’s cooking career detoured when he returned to the Runnin’ Pardners and began performing with keyboardist Joe Krown. “I wanted to stay in the food game, but it’s like what Al Pacino said in The Godfather. ‘Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.’”
Anderson’s music career began in Natchez with a trio called the Shades. In the Seventies, he joined the band Blue John. “We studied the blues intensely and we got tight,” he said. In 1981, after Blue John disbanded, Anderson moved to Austin and formed Coupe de Ville. “We were the only band in Austin doing funky New Orleans stuff.”
In Texas and Lafayette, Coupe de Ville often backed Dr. John. The band also opened shows for the Neville Brothers. In 1992, Anderson’s work with the New Orleans stars and his Crescent City–based repertoire inspired him to move to New Orleans. He joined George Porter Jr. and the Runnin’ Pardners that year and, in a sign of things to come, cooked for the band during road trips.
“It was really kind of George to tell to the crowd Sunday at Jazz Fest about my business,” Anderson said. “That blew me away. And I still have an affinity for New Orleans, but this is where I’m at in my life. I’m good here.”