Saturday, October 24, 2009

Hurricanes Rita and Katrina Destroy New Orleans

The Impact on the food industry due to the tragedies of New Orleans
September 2005

The Impact on the Food Industry due to the tragedy of New Orleans

We have recently witnessed one of the greatest tragedies to ever
strike American soil due to the devastation Mother Nature had on
Louisiana and Mississippi. Although there are thousands of topics
that can arise due to this tragedy, I would like to specifically
discuss the food industry interjected with some of my own personal
opinions and forecasts. Please keep in mind that I am but one Chef,
and this article is of my own opinion.

First, and foremost, I want to address the influx of articles on the
internet and public regarding the future of New Orleans and the
entire gulf region devastated by Katrina and now Rita. Don't believe
everything you read!! Nobody knows for certain what the future of
this Gulf region holds, NOBODY!!! If your establishment depends on
the outcome of the economy of the Gulf Region please attain and study
a reputable commodity report that will give you accurate information
pertaining to the market in question.

The devastation that this bombshell has and will have on the food
industry is beyond words; and to most of us, beyond comprehension.
The effect on the ecosystem can only be described as ecocide; the
destruction of an ecological system. This tragedy will affect
everything from the fishing to the farming communities, from the Mom
and Pop restaurants to Brennan's and Commander's Palace to the street
vendors, from the economical state of Louisiana, Mississippi and most
recently Eastern Texas to everyone that depends on the industries
therein. There are so many variables that have been devastated by
Hurricanes Katrina and Rita from human life and sacrifice to rice
patties to farming and fishing industries. The devastation is grander
than any of us could possibly imagine, and as a Chef, these variables
are going to affect the industry for a long time to come.

A case in point is in a recent report published by USFoods that
stated as it stands now; the shrimping industry is only running at
25% of its capacity. It is projected that within the next few weeks
that the shrimping industry in the Gulf and the Delta will be at 50%,
with a projected loss of 50%. And this is just one case in point,
when you think of all the vendors and purveyors that lost trucks,
warehouses, and processing equipment; the fishermen that lost boats,
personnel and machinery necessary to process these foods, the impact
and devastation is something beyond comprehension and belief. And I
am not even going to get into the effect on the catfish or crawdad
industry�(this report was released before the devastation of
Hurricane Rita also)

When someone asks me what my culinary influences are I reply that my
truest love is that of the Cajun/Creole/Acadian styles of the
culinary arts. I claim this as my forte mainly because they include
the fusions of so many cuisines and ethnic groups that came to be
known as such. Three hundred years ago when the Acadians left Nova
Scotia to find a new land who would have thought that their ideas
were going to be married with not only the environment and challenges
of the bayous of Louisiana but with the cultures of the south in the
late 1700's such as the Native Americans, Spanish, French, West
Indians, Jamaicans, etc. In my heart I believe that the
Cajun/Creole/Acadian styles were the original "fusion cuisine" that
has long proven that they have had the ability of standing the test
of time and will continue to do so with or without New Orleans.

The late 1970's-early 80's saw Cajun and Creole cooking come to the
forefront all across America thanks to such culinary artists such as
Paul Prudhomme and Justine Wilson, still today you can find Cajun
dishes or blackened something or another pasted on menus nationwide.
For us gastronomes that have witnessed the cuisines that New Orleans
and other regions of the Gulf and Delta had to offer, I can honestly
say that it is one of the most phenomenal entities of the American
food world.

The impact of this cuisine goes so much further than blackened
redfish or crawfish etouffee. Although the cuisines of such places as
the Brennan's establishments, Emeril's or Commander's Palace are
truly great experiences, subjectively, the true experience of New
Orleans is witnessing the true cuisines of the land, the food that
has been there for hundreds of years and is in and of itself one of
the greatest melds of cuisines internationally, from Jamaica to Nova
Scotia and all of the other cultures that were melded in between,
from oyster po' boys to crawfish etouffee over dirty rice to a
million variations of true Cajun "street food" to beignets and a good
cup of coffee at Caf� DuMonde. THIS IS NEW ORLEANS!!!, not a
blackened chicken sandwich with spicy curly fries at the Hard Rock

Is the system that America has known as Cajun/Creole/Acadian food
been destroyed? I tend to believe it has not. The talent that New
Orleans and the surrounding bayou areas possessed, for the most part
anyway, has been re-located or is in the process of re-locating/re-
establishing their lives and the art that these men and women
expressed there are going to be shared with the rest of the
continent/hemisphere/world. Thank goodness�.

My heart and prayers go out to all those that have been affected by
these tragedies.

Here is hoping that Peace and Serenity find its way into your day
today and everyday.

Peace, Hugs and Shrimp Etouffee,
Chef Michael Hayes

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