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.

New article “The History of the Land” in Human Geography journal

It has been a pleasure to convene and co-author this article with both academic and practitioner colleagues as part of the special issue of Human Geography: Radical Food Geographies, edited by Colleen Hammelman, Kristin Reynolds, and Charles Levkoe. While we wrote this piece in the context of food justice, our aim is for it to be relevant to any place you live or work. 

Jabari Brown, Kevin Connell, Jeanne Firth and Theo Hilton. (2020) “The history of the land: a relational and place-based approach for teaching (more) radical food geographies”. Human Geography 13(3).

Robin Wall Kimmerer and Gary Nabhan believe that we must have “re-story-ation” if we desire environmental restoration. In our article, we argue that the History of the Land workshop at Grow Dat Youth Farm serves as an excellent guide for engaging in this process of “re-story-ation”. As Jabari Brown asks in our interview in Part 2:
“In which ways have we created the problems that we are living with today because we were not in the right kind of relationship with the land?”
We must hear the land’s stories in order to form new relationships with the land, and with one another.

Read it here.

Abstract:
The History of the Land (Brown et al., 2019) is a workshop, field trip, and pedagogical lens developed at Grow Dat Youth Farm in New Orleans and led with teenagers and adults. Using popular education methods, the lesson explores the relational biography of the land on which the farm currently resides. We argue that the history of the land is essential to understanding the spatial and social configurations of contemporary foodscapes; however, critical land histories are not engaged with in many alternative food initiatives and food justice organizations. We offer the adaptable pedagogical apparatus of the History of the Land as a tool for others to further the generative convergence of food geographies and anti-oppression work. In addition to discussing the workshop at Grow Dat, we reflect upon our own learning and healing from participating in an ongoing series of history of the land field trips to rural Mississippi where several of us hold deep personal ties to the land. We coauthors are a collective of farmers, food activists, educators, and academics. Across differences of gender, race, sexuality, class, location, and history, learning about the land together has brought us into intimate conversation about loss, memory, narration, transformation, and how we imagine alternate, liberatory futures.