NEW ORLEANS — Here’s a note on a friend we've been keeping track of since Katrina forced him and his family from their home and their beloved city.
Terry Fortia, his five children and wife Nichelle left Baton Rouge airport for the unknown nine months ago, telling NBC News he felt “kind of nervous, anxious at the same time. But really, I mean, it may be the only choice I have.”
When NBC caught up with him again, in December, he’d made the move to California and said, “It's something I'd always seen on TV, but I never imagined I would see the Hollywood sign.”
A talented chef here in New Orleans, he was offered a new beginning in Los Angeles —Hollywood actually — by a Christian charity. Though he'd hoped to get back on his feet, Terry never thought he'd land quite like this.
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“It's very surreal,” Fortia says, “Because I'm not used to all of the celebrities and all the big parties and premieres that we do here, and seeing all these different people that you only see on the television or in the movies, so it's been really weird for me.”
Here at “Memphis,” the new it place in Hollywood, Terry cooks his New Orleans specialties for a glitzy crowd. Restaurateur Richard Heiman, the owner of Memphis, saw Terry on our broadcast and tracked him down.
“I'm like, ‘Oh, my God. I've got to get a hold of this guy,’” Heiman explains, adding, “We wanted to have a good blend of Southern style, and we wanted to be authentic. How can you not be authentic with someone like Terry?”
For Fortia, it has been a journey he never expected to make after seeing his home destroyed.
“Sometimes,” he says, “I still think I'm dreaming, you know? A lot of times when I wake up in the morning ... I think I'm gonna wake up and I'm gonna be home and everything's gonna be the same. But it doesn't, you know, it's just crazy.”
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