Restaurateurs, along with chefs, waitstaff, bartenders and a longtime oyster shucker took Alexandra Kennon behind the scenes at local restaurants for her debut historical nonfiction book, “Classic Restaurants of New Orleans,” which hit shelves Nov. 4 via Arcadia Publishing.
Within its pages, Kennon explores what it’s like to be part of the process of creating the thousands of memorable meals that have been served at some of the most beloved (and mostly family-run) restaurants over the decades. She also examines the history behind the establishments and the ways important events, including the Great Depression, the civil rights movement and Hurricane Katrina, have affected the New Orleans dining scene. The book also includes details and trivia about how smaller local movements have left their mark on iconic dishes — such as the streetcar conductors’ strike that inspired the name for a "po-boy" sandwich.
Kennon’s research took her to 13 dining spots including Dooky Chase’s in Treme, the Garden District’s Commander’s Palace and Tujague’s and Antoine’s in the French Quarter.
The culmination of her culinary adventures is an entertaining, easily digestible read that incorporates interviews (Kennon says one of her favorites was with the late Leah Chase a few months before she died) and recipes for famed menu items. It also features a foreword by Tulane University history professor, best-selling author and journalist Walter Isaacson.
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“I tried to really get a feel for how they are carrying on the traditions and keeping the traditions alive, while also updating things and appealing to a younger audience and adapting to technology,” Kennon says of the torchbearers featured in her work.
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Dining at some of these beloved grandes dames is not unlike taking in an elaborate theatrical production, she notes; but in this case, readers also are taken backstage and through time.
Kennon will host book signings Nov. 19 at Galatoire's 33 Steak from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m., Dec. 11 at Tujague's from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. and at Antoine's Dec. 18 from 4 p.m.-6 p.m.