Inside the famous Diva Dawg food truck, the selection of gourmet hot dogs is limitless. From a red bean chili dog topped with crispy chicken, to alligator sausage, the menu is naturally New Orleans.
But it’s outside the truck where co-owner Andre LeBlanc says he does his best work—meeting and greeting hungry customers. LeBlanc and Chef Ericka Lassair have been dishing out “dawgs” for just two years now, but he’s been serving and working on the streets in New Orleans for nearly two decades.
"For 16 years, I was with the New Orleans Police Department,” said Leblanc. “I worked in various divisions within the police department; I loved it."
As an officer, Leblanc spent every day on neighborhood patrol, working in four different police districts before stepping in to become a part of the Public Integrity Bureau’s Force Investigation Team.
“What it (NOPD) helped me do was create some additional people skills, which is allowing us to actually get out and be with the community , travel around the nation and really get our name out there,” said Leblanc. “The police department really helps bridge the community and brings the community together."
And much of that success, Leblanc attributes it to the communication and leadership skills he learned from the NOPD. Growing up, he says he wasn’t always the most social and open person. Looking back, he says he never would have thought he would be in the food business.
"The police department actually gave me that opportunity to listen to people,” said Leblanc. “I remember when Police Monitor Susan Hudson realized I was leaving, she said ‘you were just so great with listening to people and communicating with people,’ so the police department helped with that because I was kind of a recluse back in the day."
Leblanc retired from the NOPD this past December, and when he’s not manning the grill, LeBlanc says he’s giving back to the department that gave so much to him. He’s an active member of the NOPD Reserve Division, and he also volunteers to teach classes at the Training Academy.
“I'm always stopping by the Public Integrity Bureau's office just seeing if they need anything,” said Leblanc. “I'm still involved and that's one thing I love. I love being a part of the police department and trying to help in any way that I can.”
To learn more about joining the NOPD, log on to www.joinnopd.org