The Impact of Katrina and Rita on the Food Industry

Discussion in 'Professional Chefs' started by chefmikesworld, Sep 25, 2005.

  1. chefmikesworld

    chefmikesworld

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    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 Café DuMonde. THIS IS NEW ORLEANS!!!, not a blackened chicken sandwich with spicy curly fries at the Hard Rock Café!!!

    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/gulf/delta 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….

    What's your opinion?

    Chef Michael Hayes
     
  2. peachcreek

    peachcreek

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    Because of the hurricanes food prices are going to go up. And transportation costs will remain high. As far as Cajun cuisine is concerned, I don't see that as an endangered species. And for the big-name places you mentioned,I would assume that plans have been in the works for weeks now to reopen. Heres a thought- think of the contracts available for large catering companies that will need to be filled as the south is getting rebuilt. Somebody has to get paid to cook all that pork. With the current administrations' penchant for awarding no-bid contracts it might be a good time to buy stock in that field. :lips:
    How long do you think till you hear stories of the $10.00 a bowl KBR cornflakes?
     
  3. panini

    panini

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    CMW,
    The main factor in the rebuild or rebirth of Cajun Country will be if this administration can fund and guide the rebuild and not get involved. This is one of a couple of areas where the populus has not become Americanized. There is still a lot of immigrant blood flowing in their viens.
    Unfortunately the brokers of food take any and all tradedies, large or small as an excuse to increase their profits and make enormus cash for the mother companies.
    Fact of the matter, here in inland Tex you will be hard pressed to find a gulf shrimp. It's unheard of in our grocery stores(thialand,china, etc). is all that is offered.Comercially, the price is higher for local items.
    The fishing community is not like it used to be. The independants are usually transient and just fish the boats that are owned by corporations. Kind of like truck drivers who don't own the rig.( in some instances).
    Cajun Creole will come back with a boom. The only problem will be with our government. They need to be able to see balck and white.
    These are just my opinions, expressed only by ME :smiles:
     
  4. phatch

    phatch Moderator Staff Member

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    Grain, however, will be cheap. NO was the only port rigged for handling grain. Very little grain will be exported this year and the glut will lower prices. The inland midwest farmers were hurt by the hurricanes in big way.

    Phil
     
  5. chefmikesworld

    chefmikesworld

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    Great replies and just the line of questioning and replies that I am looking for...

    I got into the discussion about contractual dining in New Orleans this morning with the owner of ChefRelief.org and in the moments of tragedy of course the contractual dining services are going to jump all over it, which is what makes chefrelief such a kick*** organization. They were first to volunteer chef services at 9/11 and have become an icon for chefs giving back to the people. But there are alot of things that are wrong with this whole picture if you will humor me for a moment...

    We have these contractual dining companies jumping in and investing and collecting "bucks by the barrel" and yet we have great non-profit org's like ChefRelief that are having to tell the Salvation Army that there is only so much they can do because of the lack of public funds, foodstuff etc

    Granted they have had a lot of major companies step up to the plate and donate food that ChefRelief can sous vide, package and distribute to org's like the Red Cross and Salvation Army so they have a "boil and serve" kind of situation and they would feed a lot more than they already are if the food and money was there to help them with their cause...it is pretty sickening if you ask me, we have millions of people reaching out and then the corporate schmucks from these contractual dining services are raking in the bucks when volunteer organizations are trying to figure out how to make the supply and demand even out....

    Kinda sucks doesn't it....

    Just Cheffy's two cents....

    Chef Michael Hayes

    RestaurantEdge CARES-Katrina and Rita Relief Effort
     
  6. panini

    panini

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    And you can bet these contractual feeders, we all know who they are, are in bed with the large purveyors, and we all know who they are. The only charity on their part will be to offset HUGE bucks.
    These couple of corps have been running a marithon to ruin many a good food operations and convey the notion that a mediocre product is beneficial to the out-sourcer. They have totally eliminated the consumer. The brainwashing starts young, in schools, and moves to College students, all the way to the corp. enviornment. I loathe them! They have teamed up with the Gov't. to monopolize and eliminate small private enterprize. The only good part for me is when I get to politely throw their reps out the door. :smokin
    Kinda sucks, doesn't it...
    Just my 2 cents
    Phil, just wait. They'll let the farmers take the hickey on this one.

    This whole series of disasters has just been one big neon light around the world that the good ole boys have been blowing smoke up the US citizens butts and we really aren't prepared for anything. Sorry, rant. I just spent a few weeks on the other side.
     
  7. shroomgirl

    shroomgirl

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    Paul Prodhomme is cooking 1200+ meals a day out of his Hanrahan factory for relief workers.

    Cajun won't die. nor will Creole....mon chere, the folks in Southern Louisana will be partying while they rebuild. Believe it. Mardi Gras is the 150th end of Feb 2006....it will happen. Too much $ is involved.

    The churchs have major jambayla fundraisers all the time...
    it's an interesting time, let's hope the cream rises to the top and better communities are built.