New Orleans' "Renaissance" and the New Southern Food Movement

Authors: Catarina Passidomo*, University of Mississippi
Topics: Cultural Geography, Agricultural Geography, Tourism Geography
Keywords: New Orleans, celanthropy, culinary tourism, food justice
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/10/2018
Start / End Time: 2:40 PM / 4:20 PM
Room: Studio 3, Marriott, 2nd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


In this paper, we focus on the slippages and contradictions underlying New Orleans’ ongoing food justice challenges during what many are describing as a “renaissance” in Southern cuisine (Severson 2014; Ferris 2014). This paper will work to situate the “New Southern Food Movement” (Kelting 2016) within the spatial and social context of New Orleans, where the contradictions and complexities of southern food’s flourishing are set against a backdrop of continued racial and economic oppression. We investigate the city and its celebrity chefs’ investments in food and cuisine as central to the cultural economy (Beriss 2012) that marketed post-Katrina New Orleans as “open for business” and tourism. We consider also the phenomenon of the city’s celebrity chefs and their philanthropic efforts (part of a broader movement of celebrity humanitarian aid work termed “celanthropy”), particularly as they work and position themselves against a backdrop of the city and region’s food access and food justice challenges. We describe the growing phenomenon of chefs engaging with humanitarian aid as both admirable and problematic, and we consider the material manifestations of this work. We critique the white male dominance among professional chefs (in New Orleans and elsewhere), and question more broadly whether and to what extent ambassadors of high-end cuisine can seriously engage with or challenge injustices in the food system. Ultimately, we use New Orleans as a case study to demonstrate both the perils and possibilities of resurgent interest and investment in regional cuisine, celebrity chefs, and their rhetorical engagements with justice and humanitarianism.

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