2015 NOLA Summer Symp ImageImage courtesy of Pableaux Johnson

2015 Summer Symposium
New Orleans: Past, Prospect, and Pop
June 25–28, 2015
New Orleans, LA

Ten years have passed since the SFA staged its last Summer Symposium in New Orleans. In the interim, Hurricane Katrina surged, the levees failed, and SFA-led volunteers rebuilt a Treme fried chicken restaurant. As the city rebounded, the SFA invested deeply in the peoples and places of New Orleans. And as America awakened to the import of the city, New Orleans doubled down on its culinary culture.

To document that renaissance, SFA oral historians and filmmakers have collected stories from banh mi stackers, po-boy dressers, ya-ka-mein peddlers, muffuletta makers, oyster shuckers, catfish fryers, cocktail mixers, and sno-ball scoopers. Over this weekend, we will share their stories and savor those treats.

In addition to being good to eat and drink, these dishes and cocktails are good to think. They serve as totems of Louisiana pop culture. Throughout 2015, SFA programming explores the popular culture of the American South, examining the ways that cultural forms are packaged, sold, and consumed by wide swaths of society.

It’s appropriate to begin our explorations in New Orleans, a city that looms large in the American imagination. The novelist Henry Miller said, “To know Paris is to know a great deal.” SFA believes that, for those of us interested in culinary culture and pop culture, “To know New Orleans is to know a great deal.” We welcome you to join us as we think and eat and drink our way through this great American city.

Check out the complete program schedule.

Highlights include:

Thursday Lunch (self-guided and self-financed diversions)

– Middendorf’s shaved catfish lunch
– High Hat catfish po-boy lunch
– Southern Food and Beverage Museum tour

Thursday Happy Hour

– Catarina Passidomo, SFA foodways professor, talks post-Katrina food justice
– Susan Spicer of Bayona plays host and chef

Thursday Dinner (self-guided and self-financed diversions)

– Dinner and a Sazerac at SFA member restaurants

Friday (Roots)

– Joel Dinerstein of Tulane University defines New Orleans cool
– Scholar in Residence Rien Fertel talks Madame Begue and second breakfasts
– Brunch at Brennan’s, featuring Slade Rushing
– Lolis Eric Elie on the untold story of Faubourg Treme
– Toni Tipton Martin channels early TV personalities Lena Richard and Austin Leslie
– Justin Nystrom of Loyola University talks corner grocery culture
– Kerry Seaton Blackmon of Willie Mae’s Scotch House fries drumsticks and thighs
– Leah Chase of Dooky Chase’s Restaurant stirs the gumbo pots

Saturday (Horizons)

– Anson Mills (Whole) Fish and (Whole Grain) Grits Breakfast at Peche with Ryan Prewitt
– Wayne Curtis of the American Scholar walks the neutral ground
– Sandy Nguyen, fisher advocate, and Thomas Stewart, shucker, talk with Brett Anderson
– Sara Roahen introduces the multicultural sandwich titans of the city
– Linda Green and L. Kasimu Harris talk ya-ka-mein and second lines
– Nathalie Jordi explores the state of local food entrepreneurship
– Rien Fertel, Wayne Curtis, and Brett Martin talk Bourbon Street drinks while Chris Hannah of Arnaud’s French 75 mixes and stirs
– Pableaux Johnson, your favorite cameraman, shows and tells both past and present
– Mai Nguyen of Ba Mien takes the Restaurant August stage to celebrate Vietnamese Louisiana

Sunday (self-guided and self-financed diversions)

Make your choice: gumbo or pho, old Louisiana or new. SFA will map possible itineraries and help introduce dining companions.

Swamp Pop, the cane sugar-sweetened Louisiana soda, is our Greenshoots showcase for the Summer Symposium


Tickets, priced at $465 each, include Thursday afternoon programming as well as all Friday and Saturday meals and talks. They will go on sale Friday, April 17 at 1 p.m. ET. All attendees must be 2015 members of the Southern Foodways Alliance. Please check your calendar before purchasing tickets because they are nontransferable, and no refunds will be issued after May 15. Prior to May 15, tickets may be refunded and returned to the SFA minus a $150 cancellation fee per ticket. Note that tickets may not be purchased via mobile devices because of survey questions contained in the ticket form.

An email with the ticket link and sale password will be emailed to members in good standing on by noon ET on April 16. If you have not received this email by noon on April 16 but believe you are a current SFA member, contact info@southernfoodways.org.


All talks will be delivered at the beautifully restored Joy Theater on Canal Street at Loyola Avenue. Saturday transportation to and from breakfast will be via chartered streetcars.


Working with photographer Claire Bangser of NOLA Beings, SFA will stage a Joy Theater exhibit that leverages visuals and narratives to tell stories about New Orleans food.


Blocks of hotel rooms have been reserved at three French Quarter hotels, all part of the New Orleans Hotel Collection: Hotel Mazarin, Hotel Le Marais, and Dauphine Orleans. As your ticket is purchased you will see a message in the questionnaire section that gives you the website address for booking rooms. Reservations MUST be made by May 11.

The Fine Print

Please check your calendar before purchasing tickets, as they are nontransferable. No refunds offered after May 11; prior to May 11, refunds will be issued minus a $150 cancellation fee. Each attendee must be a current 2015 SFA member. A good bit of strenuous walking will be necessary during this Summer Symposium.

Programming included in the ticket price begins Thursday evening, June 25, at 6:00 p.m. with a cocktail reception.

A small group discussion about New Orleans markets post-Katrina will begin that day at 5:00.  There is no additional cost to attend the discussion but seating is limited.  Folks wishing to be a part of that discussion will have the opportunity to reserve a seat in May.

Dinner Thursday night is yours to plan and will be yours to pay. (Beginning Friday morning, SFA picks up the tab again.) On June 15, along with a final schedule, SFA will email registrants a roster of suggested Thursday night restaurants.

Attendees arriving early will be given self-guided tour options. Thank you for understanding that we are unable to accommodate special dietary requests; attendees with food allergies should plan accordingly.