He has always said that his is the best job in local television, and his fans would no doubt agree. But after 30 years on-air at Channel 4, Frank Davis has decided to retire from his weekly appearances in the kitchen, his “Fishin’ Game Report” and “Naturally N’Awlins” features.
Frank will continue to make appearances on the Eyewitness Morning News, however, with cooking segments several times a year, as well as contributing to other special broadcasts and WWLTV.com.
For someone who says he’s been fishing since he was five years old, and spending time in his mama’s kitchen since he was 8, Frank admits that retirement was not an easy decision.
"I've been reminded that now is the time for me to take Mary Clare traveling more," he wrote in an email Monday to the WWL-TV staff. "Now is the time to finish the next two cookbooks Pelican Publishing Company has been asking me for, the time to focus more on my regular monthly magazine articles, and finally be able to accept some of these exotic fishing trips I've been offered the last couple of decades."
"Now is the time to actually find out what-all kinds of tools I really do have in my workshop (maybe I can build a couple of really nice birdhouses), and now is the time for me to learn first hand what 'piddling around the house whenever I want to' really means. Oh, yeah, and now I'll have more time for all my 'honey-dos.'"
A New Orleans native, Frank’s long association with WWL began in 1974, when he began making occasional appearances on WWL Radio, for fishing and outdoors segments. In 1980, he stepped in to a full-time radio role, and in 1981, he made the switch to television. New Orleans broadcasting has never been the same since.
"It happened because we'd been talking about doing some feature stories around town," Frank recalled. "They said they wanted to see the real flavor of this great area. 'You mean,' I said, 'you want to see people and places that are uniquely, naturally New Orleans.'"
30 years later, the term coined by Frank and Channel 4 has become a local catchphrase, and three decades’ worth of stories on the colorful people and personalities of this area – enhanced by one of the most colorful of them all, Frank himself – became viewer favorites. In fact, three of the most popular holiday ones, produced nearly 20 years ago by Frank with musician Benny Grunch and his “12 Yats” of Christmas, are making their annual appearance this week, and for years to come, presumably.
In the stories, Frank played up the “N’Awlins” aspect so much - reveling in the local characters and dialect - that many viewers may have been surprised to learn he majored in English in college at the University of New Orleans (known as LSUNO, when he attended).
His weekly cooking segments followed the “Naturally N’Awlins” success. His Tuesday morning appearances on the Eyewitness Morning News become must-see TV for thousands of viewers. Appearing each Tuesday in the kitchen with his wife Mary Clare, Frank, who is a distinguished member of the American Culinary Federation, has created and demonstrated hundreds of recipes. That includes each year’s successful “Franksgiving” and “Naturally Noel” holiday segments, which he plans to continue. Many of those recipes and his hundreds of others also formed the basis for five successful cookbooks, with more in the works.
He has also published books on fishing, pursuing one of his other great interests – the outdoors. His weekly “Fishin’ Game” reports have been a regular segment on Channel 4’s Eyewitness News for close to three decades.
Frank may be the only television reporter in the country who's been honored with a permanent fishing spot. Located under the Seabrook Bridge on New Orleans' Lakeshore Drive, "The Frank Davis Fishing Pier" was built by Orleans Levee Board engineers to be handicapped accessible, and with special lighting for night anglers, useable 24 hours a day.
Frank, who has been equally comfortable as a writer as a broadcaster, always describes himself as someone with “broad interests,” and that has shone through over the years, in his knack for capturing the essence of a recipe, the uniqueness of someone’s colorful personality or the nuances of the fishing tips being shared by one of his fishing guides.
Now, stepping away from the TV camera full-time will allow him to spend more time with his wife, daughter, son-in-law and four grandchildren.
"I will tell each of you that I'm going to miss seeing y'all every day, and miss feeding the morning krewe every Tuesday," Frank told the Channel 4 staff.
"I know it always sounds kind of corny, but all you guys truly have been part of my extended family. I'm just glad you're going to allow me to show up and revisit periodically in the years ahead."
Frank promises to also keep writing in his retirement, with another book or two in the works, and knows that there is always a place for him on Channel 4 and WWLTV.com, whenever he’s ready to share with his fans that perfect recipe, fishing tip or just simply an observation that -- like Frank himself -- is “Naturally N’Awlins.”