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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. If you would like to contribute to SFA’s oral history collections, please send your ideas for oral history along with your CV or Resume and a portfolio of prior oral history work to annemarie@southernfoodways.org.

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Karla Ruiz

Karla's Catering & Prepared Foods

Karla Ruiz came to Nashville from Mexico City in 2000 to visit extended family members. She was offered a job waiting tables at a Mexican restaurant and never left. She eventually found work in the back of the house at Belle Meade Plantation with one of Nashville’s best chefs, Martha Stamps, who helped her hone the lessons she had picked up –- but had never written down — at her grandmother’s elbow back in Mexico.  Karla learned to blend Mexican techniques with Southern American ingredients, like empanadas bulging with Southern peaches. After several years working with American chefs, Ruiz took the leap to start her own company, Karla’s Catering, in 2005.

She prepares her dishes in Mesa Komal, the shared commissary kitchen of Casa Azafran community center. Mesa meaning “table” in Spanish and Komal meaning “community” in Kurdish, brings Ruiz close to other chefs and food entrepreneurs from a variety of countries – each of them aiming to share where they come from through their food.

Date of interview:

Jennifer Justus

Emily B. Hall

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The Southern Foodways Alliance drives a more progressive future by leading conversations that challenge existing constructs, shape perspectives, and foster meaningful discussions. We reconsider the past with research, scrutiny, and documentation.


Alex Raij Txikito

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