April 29th, 2011
09:19 PM ET
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New Orleans residents, and the millions of people who pour into the city each year for Mardi Gras, Saints games and the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival (a.k.a. "Jazz Fest") know that the city is fueled by a fierce passion for life, art, music and perhaps most of all - its food. In the face of almost unimaginable tragedy, the city's signature cuisine sustained the bodies, spirits and souls of its people and inspired them to fight ever-mounting odds to keep the culture they love alive for future generations.

Eatocracy gathered together some of Louisiana most vibrant, vocal and knowledgeable residents, fed them a multi-course meal crafted by celebrated chef John Besh, and asked them what they think makes New Orleans cuisine such a vital part of the culture.

And when people like CNN's James Carville and Mary Matalin, chef and civil rights activist Leah Chase, Mad Men star Bryan Batt, food scholar Poppy Tooker, Treme writer Lolis Eric Elie, CNN Hero Derick Tabb and fisherman Lance Nacio sit together at a table, they're going to talk with their mouths and their hearts full.

Watch the video and share your fondest New Orleans memories and your favorite restaurant tips in the comments below.

On the Menu

A Secret Supper - N'awlins style - join us at the table, won't you?

What we ate in New Orleans - and you should, too.

The food that got them through - New Orleanians love to talk…and argue……and educate…and opine about food. It's who they are, and what has kept them going, even when their very way of life was in danger of being swept away forever.

Oysters stage a comeback after BP disaster - the region rallies after a man-made disaster

A toast to Leah Chase - raise a glass to the Queen of Creole Cuisine

Mardi Gras: Milk that packs a brandy punch - a recipe from New Orleans bar chef Lu Brow

Beyond Bourbon Street - the real fun is on Frenchmen St.

Alligator to z'herbes: NOLA food 101 - beignets, boudin and Ramos gin fizzes

Five Pig Parts You Should Be Eating - Chef Chris Lusk, the King of Louisiana Seafood steps ashore and goes whole hog

What NOT to Do During Mardi Gras - Lu Brow advises not to bargain for beads and shares the importance of a Popeye's run with strangers

Five Cocktails I Enjoy Creating and CONSUMING During Mardi Gras - but Lu certainly knows how to cut loose, too

Daytime drinking in New Orleans - do the right thing and dive into a Brandy Milk Punch or a Pimms Cup

The great gumbo debate - okra or file? How dark is your roux?

Shrimp etouffee for the New Orleans soul - New Orleans food expert Poppy Tooker shares how this dish feeds your soul and your stomach

Beyond Raw: How New Orleans serves up oysters - charbroiled, Rockefeller and po' boys abound

Making gumbo with John Besh and James Carville - celebrating Gulf seafood with a family recipe

Five Reasons to Eat in Louisiana - gumbo runs deep when you're from the Pelican State

Whooooo boy! - po boy, poor boy, po-boy, po' boy or peaux boy? How do you spell this sandwich?

Muffuletta madness - if it's not cold from Central Grocery, is it still a muffuletta? (We vote YES!)

How to peel a head-on shrimp - a little lagniappe from a visit with Poppy Tooker

Five Tips on Making Homemade Sausage - the executive chef of New Orleans restaurant Sylvain shares his sausage secrets

Fear of not eating something - share your ultimate New Orleans restaurant crawl

Cooking with Carville - the Ragin' Cajun talks about the food that fuels him

soundoff (41 Responses)
  1. Adam Mitchell

    I appreciate the sentiment, CNN, however as a New Orleanian, I can assure you that there's more to our food culture than BMP and Oysters Rock.
    Get up to Adolfo's on Frenchmen (not Frenchman as it's misspelled above) for escargot and Mussels Diane, Juan's Flying Burrito on Magazine for crawfish enchiladas, GW Fins in the Quarter for Smoked Sizzling Oysters, Igor's on St. Charles for the best darn Bloody Mary on God's Earth, or to The Joint in the Bywater for BBQ New Orleans style!
    We're a humble group in New Orleans, and fancy names like Besh don't impress us locals. We eat where the food is soulful and imaginative, where the roar of 80's Top 40 doesn't blast from Bourbon Street, and where the "chef" is the guy you grab an Abita Strawberry Lager with at your neighborhood bar. We aren't a pretentious lot down here, so why make us sound so fancy?
    We want to welcome all NOLA's visitors to celebrate our city's heritage with us in REAL restaurants, speakeasys, taverns, and crawfish boils. Forget the white tablecloths on Royal Street and in the CBD - we're a real city with real people, and I can tell you that what you've described in your article isn't real. It's a show you're putting on for our tourists.
    Visiting New Orleans? Liberate your stay and ask a local where to go. The answer won't break the bank, and you'll have a much better time than you would at a stuffy 4 star restaurant operated by a "celebrity" chef.

    April 30, 2011 at 11:30 pm |
  2. myheartbelongstonola

    you can call in Nawlins or the Big Easy (even though we don't) ; but just come down , bring your family and friends, enjoy our food, our hospitality, our music; our city. We'd love to have you, and we'll show you you a good time!

    April 30, 2011 at 4:31 pm |
    • agree

      Decent and lovely people like yourself are the reason I continue on visiting New Orleans, and why I married someone from there. Thanks for the positivity

      April 30, 2011 at 4:56 pm |
  3. whatacrock

    What a crock! CNN does a story about seafood from the gulf? What kind of propoganda is this? It is common knowledge among fisherman all over the affected areas of the gulf, and even the so called non effected areas off of Florida, that there are mutations, and destruction to the shrimp harvesting areas..guess they had the story 2 weeks ago about the coverup in the gulf fisheries with the inadequate testing, and dolphin and turtles showing up dead all over the shores... and so they have to now push this dribble to be even handed.
    The fish from the gulf is not safe from the spill, the dispersants used are highly dangerous, and there are sores and health problems on the marine life and the people who had contact during the spill with the water and bi products.
    And this passes for investigative journalism? Please!

    April 30, 2011 at 4:30 pm |
  4. AdrianZ

    CNN... "Cable News Network." How far it's strayed from that name. Now we have Mr. and Mrs. Know-it-all with their own little culinary nonsense. So it goes.


    April 30, 2011 at 3:18 pm |
    • nonesuch

      Yet here you are. Why is that? Are you chained to your computer chair, jackwagon?

      April 30, 2011 at 4:08 pm |
  5. TJ maxx

    Carville is a Democrat, what does he know about cooking?

    April 30, 2011 at 3:01 pm |
    • nonesuch

      What does one's political views have to do with culinary talent? What an idiotic comment.

      April 30, 2011 at 4:23 pm |
  6. Casey Nunez

    I Have Lived Here In New Orleans My Entire Life and Yes We Locals Do In Fact Still Call New Orleans The Big Easy.
    Also I Can Assure You The Gulf Seafood Is Not Only Safe It Is Delicious!
    Thanks CNN I Really Enjoyed This!

    April 30, 2011 at 2:55 pm |
  7. NKP

    Eating meat is the reason why so many tornadoes, hurricanes are disasters are happening. Historically humans were not big meat eaters., it has increased in the last 200 years or so. And so have natural disasters. Its called nature's law of action and reaction! If animals cant protect them selves., nature will react.

    April 30, 2011 at 2:48 pm |
    • j

      your tin foil hat needs another layer

      April 30, 2011 at 3:22 pm |
      • ha!


        April 30, 2011 at 3:31 pm |
  8. Supremeamerican

    Isn't "Nawlins" the #1 ranked state for education nationwide? I heard a bunch of the liberal states were very low on the list, and if i am not mistaken, nawlins is 1st place.

    April 30, 2011 at 2:33 pm |
    • wrong

      New Orleans is not a state, it is not rated number one regardless, and it's a pretty liberal city for such a conservative state.

      April 30, 2011 at 3:23 pm |
    • randynola

      I went to a new orleans public school and you would have to really hate your child to send them to these "schools". I wouldn't send a dog through this dysfunctional system.

      April 30, 2011 at 3:36 pm |
    • nonesuch

      Supremenutjob, you are so dumb it's painful. Louisiana is one of the lowest in the education rankings, and the city of N.O. has had terrible public schools for ages.

      Jesus, were you born stupid, or do you practice?

      April 30, 2011 at 4:06 pm |
    • nonesuch

      Oh, and Supremelystupid, you might want to look at the stats for Maryland. It's definitely a blue state. Let me know what kind of standing its schools have, you mental midget.

      April 30, 2011 at 4:22 pm |
      • wrong

        Yeah I think the lack of informative knowledge was made clear when they labeled New Orleans (or um "Nawlins" or whatever he wanted to call it) as a state. Enough said.

        April 30, 2011 at 4:57 pm |
  9. louis

    people who INSIST something must be a certain way to be authentic just sound like absolute idiots.

    April 30, 2011 at 1:55 pm |
  10. cap

    CNN's top story.... .... FOOD.... !!!

    April 30, 2011 at 1:51 pm |
  11. Jeremy

    Muffalettas at Central Grocery are delicious but not worth the horrible service that you have to deal with-

    April 30, 2011 at 1:12 pm |
  12. sunny lovetts

    lol at this "news"

    April 30, 2011 at 1:12 pm |
    • TracyL.

      t's in the Eatocracy section. It belongs here.

      April 30, 2011 at 5:56 pm |
  13. invited guest

    Some people's comments are always so funny on these kinds of posts. I had a BLAST at this dinner!! I am so glad I was invited and was able to attend. I have lived here my whole life and I call it the Big Easy and Nawlins, not all the time, but we do call it that. Frank Davis has his news special every week called Naturally Nawlins. It's just for fun!! Thanks to everyone who helped put this together. LOOKS GREAT!!!!!

    April 30, 2011 at 1:07 pm |
  14. nonesuch

    Some of the very best food I ever ate was at the French Quarter Festival. We had just arrived, leaving cold and snow behind us, and ate our way around Jackson Square. Heaven. I know what it means to miss New Orleans......

    April 30, 2011 at 12:54 pm |
  15. ArizonaYankee

    Carville is a hyper motor mouth, and frankly is insignificant. Why is this even a story CNN....

    April 30, 2011 at 12:42 pm |
    • maineiac

      frankly is insignificant and yet you read it

      April 30, 2011 at 1:45 pm |
    • Yahoo

      Why is Carville selected to represent N.O.? He doesn't!

      April 30, 2011 at 2:58 pm |
    • Jeff

      Yeah, I came on here to say the same thing–there is more serious stuff happening in the world that people need to know about than two party hacks' gumbo recipe. Between this and the royal wedding I feel like somebody doesn't want to inform the public.

      April 30, 2011 at 4:37 pm |
      • Snowbunny

        Then why are you on here reading and posting, asswipe?

        May 2, 2011 at 11:01 am |
  16. John Lane

    It's not "Nawlins." Some people say "Noo Awlins" and some say "Noo Alyuns" but I've never heard anyone say "Nawlins." No one calls it the "Big Easy" either. That name is itself the "Big Stupid" and is demeaning.

    April 30, 2011 at 12:32 pm |
    • jeanpaulbernard

      You should relax a little man you're getting a bit too upset over a name that has a lot of history for this city. Yes we don't use this name regularly but during prohibition times New Orleans was one big speakeasy, hence the name the "Big Easy"

      April 30, 2011 at 1:37 pm |
      • Michael

        Agreed, plus it isn't demeaning at all any more than 'The Big Apple' is or the 'Windy City'. If it helps tourism enjoy it!

        April 30, 2011 at 1:45 pm |
      • agree

        Yea, seriously. People need to relax. We have a children's book written by a New Orleans native and they refer to it as the Big Easy, so obviously some people who live there will still refer to it as such. What's the big deal? Relax.

        April 30, 2011 at 3:34 pm |
    • John Lane

      OK, my parents were from there – they lived there till their mid-20s; most of my relatives live there today, and I've spent significant time there myself and made many visits over half a century – yet I've never heard anyone use either of the names "Big Easy" or "Nawlins" a single time. Perhaps someone uses those names once in a while, yet they are *always* used in the headline of any story about the city. That's my gripe.

      April 30, 2011 at 4:10 pm |
      • John Lane

        And @Michael: "Big Easy" is in fact demeaning – it does not today connote the city as a bit speakeasy as in Prohibition – rather it connotes general laxity, laziness, and sexual fecklessness – which are no more true of New Orleans and New Orleansians than they are true of other places.

        April 30, 2011 at 4:14 pm |
      • John Lane

        And @Michael: "Big Easy" is in fact demeaning – it does not today connote the city as a big speakeasy as in Prohibition – rather it connotes general laxity, laziness, and sexual fecklessness – which are no more true of New Orleans and New Orleansians than they are true of other places.

        April 30, 2011 at 4:15 pm |
  17. John Lane

    it's not the "Big Easy." Will you please stop calling it that? People from there don't call it by that ridiculous, demeaning name.

    April 30, 2011 at 12:27 pm |
    • SugarMama

      Yep. The Big Easy is the name of a really bad movie (and of my horn-y male German Shepherd dog). "Crescent City" is a much better appellation.

      April 30, 2011 at 1:09 pm |
    • Chad

      HAHA! People do this all the time. One woman says poor-boy! Who the hell calls it poor boy! Remember that crap show called K-ville said they derived the name from people down here calling new orleans katrina-ville! sooo stupid, stop creating crap cliches and slogans for our city.

      April 30, 2011 at 3:17 pm |
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