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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.

< Back to Oral History project: The Lives and Loaves of New Orleans

ORAL HISTORY

Jason Gendusa


John Gendusa Bakery

Jason Gendusa is co-owner of John Gendusa Bakery, and the fourth generation to operate the family-run business in New Orleans. He remembers the stories his father, John Gendusa, told him about how bakeries were once as prominent as corner stores. Now he can name in one breath the traditional bread bakeries still operating in New Orleans. John Gendusa Bakery is most famous for their light and crispy po-boy loaf, which Jason’s great-grandfather originated for Martin Brothers in the late 1920s. Their po-boys, pistolettes and muffuletta loaves are still baked with the original formula, and are only sold wholesale. But, if you happen to pass by and smell the bread baking, you can knock on the screen door like most of the neighbors do, and buy a loaf. Among its many customers, John Gendusa Bakery supplies po-boy bread to Gene’s Poboys and Parran’s Po-boys and Restaurant in the city.

Jason lives next door to the bakery, with his wife and two young children. He and his father do everything, from the baking, to the office work, to the repairing of equipment and delivery trucks. They also built two low-humidity coolers for overnight proofing of the bread dough, allowing them to work a more reasonable morning shift. The levee broke four blocks from the bakery after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Jason and his father cleaned and repaired all the machinery themselves. They even hauled off their own trash. When asked about whether they considered not returning, Jason said that after much thought, he realized the bakery was such a big part of the history of New Orleans. So he decided, “why not be a part of the rebuilding?”

Audio production by Thomas Walsh.

Date of interview:
2015-05-11

Interviewer:
Dana Logsdon

Photographer:
Dorka Hegedus

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