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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.

< Back to Oral History project: Bartenders of New Orleans


Michael Smith

The Columns Hotel

“Big Mike,” as he’s known to his customers, is a celebrity in New Orleans. Voted Best Bartender five years in a row, he knows how to keep people happy. Today, he’s a fixture at The Columns Hotel, but he got his start in bartending by accident. After working room service at a local hotel, he was recruited to work at The Columns as a bar-back and quickly climbed the ranks. It was trial by fire at first, but soon Big Mike had the recipes down — both recipes for the drinks, and the recipe for giving people what they want. Behind the bar, Mike is an entertainer. Whether it’s singing a song, doing a little dance, or just making you feel like you’ve been a regular on your first visit, pleasing people is his game. If you come to The Columns thirsty, he’ll make anything you like. But Mike says that anyone can make a drink – his talent is dealing with people. One visit, and you’ll be convinced.

Date of interview:

Amy Evans


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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.


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