Louisiana Creole cuisine is a style of cooking originating in Louisiana (centered on the Greater New Orleans area) that blends French, Mediterranean, Caribbean, African, and American influences. It also bears hallmarks of Italian cuisine. It is vaguely similar to Cajun cuisine in ingredients (such as the holy trinity), but the important distinction is that Cajun cuisine arose from the more rustic, provincial French cooking adapted by the Acadians to Louisiana ingredients, whereas the cooking of the Louisiana Creoles tended more toward classical European styles adapted to local foodstuffs. Broadly speaking, the French influence in Cajun cuisine is descended from various French Provincial cuisines of the peasantry, while Creole cuisine evolved in the homes of well-to-do aristocrats, or those who imitated their lifestyle. Although the Creole cuisine is closely identified with New Orleans culture today, much of it evolved in the country plantation estates so beloved of the pre-Civil War Creoles.. (Despite its aristocratic French roots, Creole cuisine does not include Garde Manger or other extremely lavish styles of the Classical Paris cuisine.)
The Spanish influences on Creole cuisine were in the heat of the peppers, the supreme importance of rice and the introduction of beans. The Spaniards and the Italians also used tomatoes extensively, which had not been a frequent ingredient in the earlier French era. Pasta and tomato sauces arrived during the period when New Orleans was a popular destination for Italian immigrants (roughly, 1815 to 1925). Many Italians became grocers, bakers, cheese makers and orchard farmers, and so influenced the Creole cuisine in New Orleans and its suburbs. The African influence, which was extensive, came about because nearly all servants were African-American, as were many of the cooks in restaurants and cafes.
The first French, Spanish, and Italian Creole cookbooks date back to the era before the Louisiana Purchase. The first Creole cookbook in English was La Cuisine Creole: A Collection of Culinary Recipes, From Leading Chefs and Noted Creole Housewives, Who Have Made New Orleans Famous For Its Cuisine, written by Lafcadio Hearn and published in 1885. The full text and page images can be found at Feeding America: The Historic American Cookbook Project.
Starting in the 1980s, Cajun influence became important, spurred by the popular restaurant of Chef Paul Prudhomme. A national interest in Cajun cooking developed, and many tourists went to New Orleans expecting to find Cajun food there (being unaware that the city was culturally and geographically separate from Acadiana), so entrepreneurs opened or rebranded restaurants to meet this demand. The "New New Orleans Cooking" of celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse includes both Cajun and Creole dishes. In his writings and TV shows, Lagasse both draws the distinction between Cajun and Creole and explains where they overlap.
With the rise of Modern American Cooking in the 1980s, a New Creole (or Nouvelle Creole) strain began to emerge. This movement is characterized in part by a renewed emphasis on fresh ingredients and lighter preparations, and in part by an outreach to other culinary traditions, including Cajun, Southern, Southwestern, and to a lesser degree Southeast Asian. While the Cajun food craze eventually passed, Modern Creole has remained as a predominant force in most major New Orleans restaurants.