Chef returns to St. Mary’s to cook dinner and help raise funds for memorial garden

By Corey Poole

HenryChandler

St. Mary’s Catholic High School will welcome one of its alum as he cooks dinner for the school’s fundraiser.

The event will be held Saturday, June 4 at St. Mary’s. Funds will go toward establishing the St. Mary’s Catholic School Memorial Garden. Activities include dinner, music, silent and live auctions, a school memorabilia display and a cocktail hour with a cash bar.

Henry was excited to announce that hams from Grayson’s Barbeque in Clarence will be featured at the event, along with several of his signature dishes.

Tickets are $75 per person. For more information contact Melissa Frye at 318-352-8394 or Payne Williams at 318-352-6695.

“My time at St. Mary’s is one of the best times in my life,” said Chef William Henry “Bodie” Chandler. “The friends I made there are the friends I have for life.”

Born and raised in St. Maurice on his family’s 1,500-acre cotton, cattle and pecan farm Henry learned to cook with his Nanny Castell as she prepared the family’s meals. He is the last of three boys.

Henry cooked and served his first meal of chicken and dumplings at the age of 10. His family’s positive reaction to his food solidified his passion for the culinary arts.

“I never wanted to do anything else,” he said.

Henry’s dad, known as “Big H,” was a WWII veteran who ran a local liquor store in addition to the farm. Henry’s home was often the gathering place for his classmates and other community members, who gathered around the table for a home cooked meal.

Henry attended Parks Elementary, Ira Campbell’s school at Hickory Ridge through eighth grade and then enrolled at St. Mary’s for high school.

“My parents thought it would be a perfect fit for me because it was a smaller school than Natchitoches Central,” said Henry.

It was at St. Mary’s that Henry began playing football and met the infamous John Wayne Odom.

“He had a big impact on all of us,” Henry said. “He turned us into men.”

Henry also met and became lifelong friends with John Ackel, Thomas Plunkett III and Hugo Grayson. Henry calls himself, Plunkett and Grayson the “other side of the river boys.”

Living over 17 miles from Natchitoches, Henry would sleep over at the homes of the McKnights or the Ackels every Friday night after football games.

Henry recollected on the following memories from his days at St. Mary’s:

  • Collecting boxes for homecoming
  • His love of football
  • Skiing on Cane River after football practice
  • Sneaking into the Shammrock
  • Riding up and down the strip and grabbing a burger at Casper’s.

Growing up there was no Food Network on the television and no famous chefs to look up to. It wasn’t until he went to college in Lafayette that he got exposed to Cajun and Creole cooking.

After a stint working on an oil rig and in construction, Henry married in 1989. He and his wife opened a catering business before Henry enrolled in a culinary school at Guilford Tech, graduating with a degree in French culinary arts.

Eventually settling in Georgia, the couple followed their dream, opening Henry’s Louisiana Grill. After four successful years of operation, the restaurant needed a bigger location.They renovated a building and created a new home, which customers followed them to.

Today, the grill continues as a thriving, exciting restaurant in the heart of downtown Acworth.

One thought on “Chef returns to St. Mary’s to cook dinner and help raise funds for memorial garden

  1. Great to see ya coming home for a good cause, too bad you can’t slip down to ‘shamrocks.

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