New Orleans’ “restaurant renaissance,” chef humanitarians, and the New Southern food movement

Coverage celebrating the “restaurant renaissance” in New Orleans post-Katrina as reported by Munchies/VICE, The Times-Picayune and The New York Times.

Click here to read the final accepted version of my latest publication in the journal Food, Culture & Society. It is available online now and will be out in print April of 2022.

Abstract: In this paper, we situate New Orleans’ post-Katrina “restaurant renaissance” within a context of historical and contemporary racial and gender inequities. This context provides a space for critical consideration of the celebratory narratives popularly attached to the city’s most prominent chefs and their roles in “rebuilding” New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Our critique focuses on the practice of chef “celanthropy” (celebrity philanthropy) and the contradictions often underlying that practice. While we situate this critique in New Orleans, our analysis is more broadly applicable to what Lily Kelting has described as the “New Southern Food Movement.” This movement relies on contradictory tropes of pastoral utopian pasts and harmonious multicultural futures that elide white male hegemony within the food industry, and southern food’s grounding in colonialism and enslavement.

Over the course of my PhD research I discovered the many joys of co-authoring journal articles. While there are challenges, I truly find that the scale tips strongly to the positive side. This collaboration with Catarina Passidomo, Southern Foodways Alliance Associate Professor of Southern Studies and Anthropology at the University of Mississippi, stemmed from co-presenting together at the American Association of Geographers annual conference. I met Catarina while she was conducting her own PhD field research in New Orleans in the early 2010s, and I’ve loved keeping up with her research and amazing work with the Southern Foodways Alliance ever since.

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