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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

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Milton Prudence

Tommy’s Cuisine

When he got out of the Marine Corps in 1968, Milton Prudence meant to stop off in New Orleans to visit family before heading back home to New England to pursue a career in teaching. At the time, visiting his family meant visiting the kitchen at Galatoire’s, because that’s where most of them worked: his mother, his grandmother, his uncle, and his cousins. Naturally he signed on, too, as a dishwasher. Roughly two decades later, Mr. Prudence became Galatoire’s first African American executive chef.

While he and Galatoire’s parted ways in 2003, Mr. Prudence continues to cook many of that institution’s specialties at Tommy’s Cuisine, a New Orleans-Italian restaurant in the Warehouse Arts District. Crabmeat au gratin, stuffed eggplant, and oysters Rockefeller share table space with veal Marsala, soft-shell crab linguine, and Italian rosemary chicken. Mr. Prudence takes pride in preserving both culinary traditions, saying, “It’s not something I take lightly…I have teachers that taught me this and for me to pass it on and—or even for me to do it, and do it to the point where people like it and can say nothing changed with it—that’s very important to me.”

Date of interview:

Sara Roahen

Sara Roahen

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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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