Feeding New Orleans

Celebrity Chefs and Reimagining Food Justice

By Jeanne K. Firth

228 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 22 halftones, 1 map, 2 tables

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-7633-3
    Published: December 2023
  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-4696-7632-6
    Published: December 2023
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-1-4696-7634-0
    Published: November 2023

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After Hurricane Katrina in 2005, many high-profile chefs in New Orleans pledged to help their city rebound from the flooding. Several formed their own charitable organizations, including the John Besh Foundation, to help revitalize the region and its restaurant scene. A year and a half after the disaster when the total number of open restaurants eclipsed the pre-Katrina count, it was embraced as a sign that the city itself had survived, and these chefs arguably became the de facto heroes of the city's recovery. Meanwhile, food justice organizations tried to tap into the city's legendary food culture to fundraise, marketing high-end dining events that centered these celebrity chefs.

Jeanne K. Firth documents the growth of celebrity humanitarianism, viewing the phenomenon through the lens of feminist ethnography to understand how elite philanthropy is raced, classed, and gendered. Firth finds that cultures of sexism in the restaurant industry also infuse chef-led philanthropic initiatives. As she examines this particular flavor of elite, celebrity-based philanthropy, Firth illuminates the troubled relationships between consumerism, food justice movements, and public-private partnerships in development and humanitarian aid.

About the Author

Jeanne K. Firth holds a PhD from the London School of Economics and Political Science. She was on the founding staff team of Grow Dat Youth Farm in New Orleans, a food justice organization which is now the largest urban farm in the city.
For more information about Jeanne K. Firth, visit the Author Page.


"Well written and engaging throughout, Feeding New Orleans illustrates that you can't divorce food from larger issues of food access, displacement, labor conditions, and inequality in creative communities. Using the rise of celebrity chef philanthropy in post–Hurricane Katrina New Orleans as a case study, she examines how such charitable acts become a major driver of development—and the issues of inequality and longevity that such trends raise."—Deborah Harris, Texas State University

"Feeding New Orleans analyzes the development of chef-driven philanthropy in the United States through Firth's extensive field research in New Orleans post Hurricane Katrina, including her own experience working for a food-justice nonprofit. This book provides a persuasive and original study of how race, gender, and American's consumer culture affect restaurants, food, and philanthropy. A timely and significant contribution."—David Beriss, University of New Orleans