Joe Delpit, owner of the oldest known continually operating Baton Rouge restaurant, is featured in the latest issue of Food & Wine magazine, in which he talks about Chicken Shack, his family’s work during the civil rights movement and the importance of good service.
Chicken Shack has been around for 84 years, and Delpit has been in charge for 60 of them. Starting at age five, he worked in the shop—first watching the bread toast to make sure it didn’t burn, later promoted to washing dishes. By 14, he was running deliveries all over town on his bike.
Delpit’s dad, Tommy, told him to get a driver’s license, but he also wasn’t old enough. So his dad took him to the DMV and lied about his age. 1940 became 1939, and Delpit took the truck.
One of the men Joe delivered chicken to was civil rights pioneer Reverend T.J. Jemison, who led an eight-day Baton Rouge bus boycott in 1953 that would later inspire the bigger, more famous one in Montgomery.
Delpit used his fudged license and truck to deliver chicken, but also to take his own place in the country’s civil rights movement by giving people rides to work during the bus boycott.
Read the full Food & Wine feature about Delpit and how Chicken Shack served as a community hub during the civil rights movement, and check out a 2015 Business Report feature on Chicken Shack and its longtime owner.