The Southern Food & Beverage Museum has opened a new exhibit in a new location—online! We wanted to share a bit of New Orleans culinary history with the world, so we’ve put together an online exhibit: Creole Chefs of New Orleans. Although we discuss Creole Chefs in our Leah Chase Louisiana Gallery in the physical museum, this exhibit gave us a chance to deep-dive into the stories of chefs like Lena Richard, Michael Roussel, and Austin Leslie in a more intimate way. It serves as a celebration of the influence of African-American chefs and restaurateurs on Creole cuisine and food culture in New Orleans.
The project came to fruition with support of a grant from the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Foundation to focus on the contributions of African American chefs in New Orleans as we moved our cataloging system into the 21st century. This move (which is still ongoing!) will give the museum an online space to coordinate all of our collection records, from the storage room to the museum floor, from the menu collection in the library to digital archives. Most importantly, it will allow researchers to access these collections more easily to learn about the lives of chefs past, and to use this information to deepen the community’s understanding of our culinary history and culture.
As we started the process of transferring our database of artifacts, we ran into a few problems with the conversion. While waiting for our team to work through the technical issues, we realized that we could work on an exhibit to showcase what we had in the collections already. Through the work of our staff and a few dedicated interns, we were able to take advantage of our collections, the John & Bonnie Boyd Hospitality & Culinary Library, and resources from partners like the Southern Foodways Alliance to put together this multi-disciplinary exhibit.
While we continue our work of transitioning to a new collections platform, we hope to be able to develop more online exhibits to connect to a broader audience. While you're poking around online, you might also see another online exhibit that was developed by Hannah C. Griggs for The Museum of the American Cocktail. New Orleans Prohibition Raids, 1919-1933 explores the records of raids, arrests, and other law-breaking evidence of turbulent Prohibition-era New Orleans.
Please consider the Southern Food & Beverage Museum when you uncover interesting culinary artifacts. The John & Bonnie Boyd Hospitality & Culinary Library accepts donations of cookbooks, menus, and other culinary archives.