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Oral Histories

The SFA oral history program documents life stories from the American South. Collecting these stories, we honor the people whose labor defines the region.

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ORAL HISTORY

Benjamin Lyons


Benjamin Lyons grew up in Lancaster, Pennsylvania and graduated from Wesleyan University with a degree in American Studies. Inspired by the art of documentarian Les Blanc and having visited for Jazz Fest, Lyons decided to move to New Orleans in 1984. After a brief stint working on Bourbon Street, he went on to wait tables at the French Quarter institution Mr. B’s Bistro that same year. In 1993, he moved to the Uptown neighborhood bistro Crêpe Nanou until he took a job at Gautreau’s in 2012.

With more than twenty-five years among the well-heeled diners of Uptown, Lyons has come to understand what the city’s elite want from a restaurant, and more expansively, what they believe to be true about themselves and the world that they inhabit. Lyons is a waiter, a title in which he takes pride due to the professionalism he brings to the craft. An educated man, he has also given great thought to the relationship between the service industry and restaurant management and how the many changes he has witnessed over his time in the dining room reflect broader transformations in society. In addition to waiting tables, Lyons writes about jazz.

Date of interview:
2019-06-05

Interviewer:
Justin Nystrom

Photographer:
L. Kasimu Harris

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