2023 Food Forum

Pig Tales

November 4, 2023 

Williams Research Center, 410 Chartres Street in the French Quarter 
10 a.m.–5:15 p.m. 
Reception featuring tastings of pork dishes by celebrated local chefs immediately following the program (more details below)
Admission, $100
Optional lunchtime cooking demonstration, $75 (more details below)

Registration for the 2023 Food Forum opens to THNOC members Monday, September 25, and to the general public on Monday, October 2. Tickets for the optional cooking demonstration must be purchased separately.


Since 2010 The Historic New Orleans Collection and Dr. Jessica B. Harris, author and food historian, have hosted the Food Forum, a program focused on the culinary practices of New Orleans and the Gulf region. Featuring noted historians, writers, chefs, and culture bearers, the Food Forum presents a wealth of information about what we eat and how our foods and customs have evolved. Past Food Forums have explored topics such as the histories of rum, coffee, pralines, and New Orleans’s world-famous festival foods. The 2023 Food Forum will spotlight pork’s contributions to our survival and traditions.

In the 16th century, Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto brought 13 hogs to what is now known as Tampa Bay, Florida. A pig population explosion quickly led to pork dishes on tables throughout the New World. From barbecue and boudin to cochinita pibil, the people in the Gulf region of the United States have used everything but the oink in culinary traditions passed down through generations. This year’s Food Forum celebrates the history, regional cuisines, and cultural place of pork through engaging sessions, an optional cooking demonstration, and a reception featuring seven celebrated chefs reinterpreting a traditional Acadiana boucherie.

Schedule of Events

10 a.m.

Daniel Hammer, president and CEO, The Historic New Orleans Collection
Dr. Jessica B. Harris, food historian and author of High on the Hog: A Culinary Journey from Africa to America

10:10 a.m.
Lesser Beasts: A Culinary and Natural History of the Pig

Mark Essig, historian and author of Lesser Beasts: A Snout-to-Tail History of the Humble Pig

11 a.m.

11:15 a.m.
Ganado Menor: Pork at the Border

Melissa Guerra, food historian, host of Kitchen Wrangler blog and YouTube channel, and author of Dishes from the Wild Horse Desert: Norteño Cuisine of South Texas

11:45 a.m.
Lunch on your own or optional cooking demonstration with Melissa Guerra at the New Orleans School of Cooking (additional charge; more details below)

2 p.m.
Louisiana’s Boucherie: Traditional and Contemporary Practices

Lolis Eric Elie in conversation with Toby Rodriguez, chef, educator, and traditional boucherie advocate

3 p.m.

3:15 p.m.
Where There Is Flavor There Is History: Whole Hog Barbeque

Zella Palmer, chair and director of the Dillard University Ray Charles Program in African American Material Culture and coauthor of Ed Mitchell’s Barbeque, in conversation with Ryan Mitchell, coauthor of Ed Mitchell’s Barbeque

4 p.m.
Chewing the Fat

Dr. Jessica B. Harris in conversation with Lolis Eric Elie, screenwriter and author of Smokestack Lightning: Adventures in the Heart of Barbecue Country

5:15–7 p.m.

The reception will be a reinterpretation of an Acadiana boucherie, a Cajun and Creole communal tradition of butchering pigs and preserving almost every aspect of the animal. There are seven "stations" in a traditional boucherie. Each station is built around a specific cut of the hog, a method of preservation, and a recipe. Our guest chefs have each been assigned a station and will reimagine the traditional approach to create a dish that highlights their own unique culinary style.

Toby Rodriguez with chefs from Lâche Pas Boucherie et Cuisine
Vance Vaucresson of Vaucresson Sausage Co. 
Marcus Jacobs of Marjie’s Grill and Seafood Sally’s 
Anh Luu of Xanh NOLA 
Sophina Uong of Mister Mao 
Alfredo Nogueira of Cane & Table 
Shonda Cross of Chef Shonda Fine Dining to Go 

Optional Lunchtime Activity

Cooking Demonstration with Melissa Guerra
New Orleans School of Cooking, 524 St. Louis Street
noon–1:45 p.m.
$75 per person; food and beverages are included; seats are limited.


Chef Guerra will demonstrate how to cook her recipe for pork carnitas, a traditional Mexican treat that is easy to make and delicious for sharing. Guerra’s carnitas will be complemented by a crisp romaine salad with a corn maque choux dressing and bananas Foster (with bacon, of course!) for dessert. Lunch includes lemonade, iced tea, or Abita Amber beer.


Jessica B. Harris

Jessica B. Harris

Jessica B. Harris is a culinary historian and the author of 12 critically acclaimed books documenting the foods and foodways of the African Diaspora, including High on the Hog: A Culinary Journey from Africa to America, which was transformed into a four-part Netflix docuseries in 2021. My Soul Looks Back: A Memoir was a finalist for the PEN Open Book Award; her most recent book is Vintage Postcards from the African World: In the Dignity of their Work and the Joy of Their Play. Harris is professor emerita at Queens College, CUNY, and holds an AB from Bryn Mawr College; an MA in French literature from Queens College, CUNY; a License ès Lettres from the Université de Nancy, France; and a doctorate in performance studies from New York University. She was the inaugural scholar in residence in the Ray Charles Chair at Dillard University in New Orleans. Harris has received many honors, including a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Southern Foodways Alliance, the Amelia Award from the New York Culinary Historians, and the DeMasters Award from the Association of Food Journalists. Harris was named to the James Beard Foundation’s Who’s Who of Food and Beverage in America in 2010, her cookbooks were inducted into the James Beard Cookbook Hall of Fame in 2019, and in 2020 she was given a Lifetime Achievement Award by the same organization. Harris was named one of the world’s 100 most influential people in 2021 by TIME magazine.


Mark Essig

Mark EssigMark Essig is the author of Lesser Beasts: A Snout-to-Tail History of the Humble Pig and Edison & the Electric Chair: A Story of Light and Death. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, Atlas Obscura, the Los Angeles Review of Books, and Gravy. He holds a PhD in history from Cornell and now works as a science editor at the North Carolina Institute for Climate Studies, part of NC State University.


Lolis Eric Elie

Lolis Eric Elie

Lolis Eric Elie is a New Orleans–born, Los Angeles–based writer and filmmaker. His television credits include work on The Chi, The Man in the High Castle, and the HBO series Treme. A former columnist for the Times-Picayune, Elie is the author of Smokestack Lightning: Adventures in the Heart of Barbecue Country and coproducer and writer of the documentary based on that book. A contributing writer to the Oxford American, he has also been published in Gourmet, the Washington Post, the New York Times, and Bon Appetit.


Melissa Guerra

Melissa Guerra

Melissa Guerra is a self-taught culinary expert and food historian, specializing in Texas regional, Mexican, and Latin American cuisine. Her cookbook Dishes from the Wild Horse Desert: Norteño Cuisine of South Texas was a finalist for a James Beard Award and for an International Association of Culinary Professionals award. After acquiring an MFA in creative writing through the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, Guerra went on to write and publish articles about life along the United States–Mexican border. She is also the host of the Kitchen Wrangler blog and YouTube channel. Guerra has taught food history at the Culinary Institute of America in San Antonio, Texas, and Hyde Park, New York.


Zella Palmer

Zella Palmer

Zella Palmer is an author, professor, filmmaker, curator, scholar, and the chair and director of the Dillard University Ray Charles Program in African American Material Culture in New Orleans, Louisiana. As the chair of the Dillard University Ray Charles Program, Palmer filmed and produced The Story of New Orleans Creole Cooking: The Black Hand in the Pot documentary. In 2020, under Palmer’s leadership, Dillard launched a food studies minor, one of two such accredited programs at an HBCU. Palmer’s latest publications, Recipes and Remembrances of Fair Dillard: 1869–2019 and Ed Mitchell’s Barbeque, share some of her rich research. She received the 2018 Cultural Bearer Award from the Mardi Gras Indian Hall of Fame, was included in New Orleans Magazine’s 2020 People To Watch, and was a 2022 Dine Diaspora Black Women in Food Trailblazer honoree.


Ryan Mitchell

Ryan Mitchell

Ryan Mitchell, is the son of Ed Mitchell, an American pitmaster who was inducted into both the Black BBQ Hall of Fame and the American Royal Barbecue Hall of Fame in 2022. Ryan is the business brain behind his father’s brand. From a very young age, Ryan began working in the Mitchell family restaurant. Although barbeque was the only way of life he knew, Ryan pictured a different path for his career, attending East Carolina University to play football and earn a degree in economics. After eight years in commercial and investment banking, he left his 60-hour-a-week desk job and returned to his roots to pursue his passion. Ryan credits his father, grandfather, and uncles Aubrey and Stevie Mitchell for giving him the skills to lead the next generation of barbeque.


Toby Rodriguez

Toby Rodriguez

Toby Rodriguez is from Poche Bridge, a small Cajun and Creole community in South Louisiana, where he learned le boucherie, the butchering process culturally specific to this pocket of the Gulf Coast. Rodriguez demonstrates its process and teaches its fundamentals both at home and across the United States in such far-flung places as Chapel Hill, Brooklyn, Detroit, and Homer, Alaska. Rodriguez has traveled to Italy to teach at The Institute for Gastronomic Science and has cooked for Magnus Nilsson of Fäviken in Sweden. He is a member of Slow Food New Orleans and traveled as a delegate to Denver for Slow Meat and to Torino, Italy, for Terra Madre. Rodriguez is also a member of the Southern Foodways Alliance.



View schedules from past Food Forums (previously named Culinary Symposium).