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A Must -Visit Museum For Southern Food & Beverage

For anyone curious about southern food and beverage culture, a visit to the Southern Food and Beverage Museum (a.k.a. SoFAB) is a must-stop when you visit New Orleans. Located at 1504 Oretha C. Haley Boulevard, the museum is chock full of culinary culture and ephemera, ranging from the history of Popeye’s Fried Chicken and traditional New Orleans foods to the many foods, products and culinary curiosities native to each southern state. There is a demonstration kitchen; cooking classes and other educational programs are offered regularly. www.southernfood.org

Inside SOFAB. Museum hours are Thursday to Monday, 11:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

SoFAB also houses the Museum of American Cocktail (MOTAC), a fascinating history of America’s cocktail culture, and the John & Bonnie Boyd Hospitality & Culinary Library, containing over 11,000 volumes of culinary books, food and cocktail menus, pamphlets, archival documents and a growing number of important collections, other literature and ephemera, collected by and donated to SoFAB. It’s also home to the Nitty Grits Podcast Network, a selection of audio and video podcasts addressing food and drink topics.

The museum may appear small at first but, trust us when we tell you to take your time walking through the exhibits. There is much to digest, especially if you enjoy learning about the history of food and drink. The exhibits on New Orleans’ culinary history alone, ranging from the impact of Hurricane Katrina to the history of cooking with beans and a tribute to the late Leah Chase, offer much to reflect on.

Learn the history of New Orleans' famous Popeye's fried chicken and its dynamic founder, Al Copeland.
Learn the history of New Orleans’ famous Popeye’s fried chicken and its dynamic founder, Al Copeland.

Meet SoFAB’s Founder

The Southern Food and Beverage Museum (SoFAB) was founded in 2004 by Elizabeth Williams, who wanted a place where the intersection between culture and food could be studied. The museum began with pop-up exhibits and was the first official exhibit for what is now the Museum of American Cocktail. Over time, individuals began donating family artifacts to the museum, requiring the need for more space. SoFAB has been at its current location since 2014.

Williams, who joined us as our guest on The Connected Table LIVE May 5th, was born and raised in New Orleans to a family with Sicilian heritage. She notes in her bio that she was “always fascinated by the way the lure of nutmeg and peppercorns motivated the exploration of the world.”

Elizabeth Williams, President of the National Food & Beverage Foundation
Elizabeth Williams, President of the National Food & Beverage Foundation

A lawyer by training, Williams has had a long career working with foundations and museums. She served as President & CEO of the University of New Orleans Foundation and UNO Research and Technology Foundation, Inc. working in foundation budget management and financing, development and fundraising and management for properties including UNO Studio Center, the Ogden Museum of Southern Art, and the D-Day Museum, now the National World War II Museum.

Since 2004 she has served as founding President of the National Food & Beverage Foundation and established the Southern Food & Beverage Museum. She has researched and written on the subject of food policy and is coauthor with Stephanie Jane Carter of The Encyclopedia of Law and Food (Greenwood Publishing, 2011).

Over lunch at Café Reconcile, a nonprofit restaurant and hospitality training ground for at-risk youth ages 16 to 24, Williams shared some of her projects for the National Food & Beverage Foundation, which includes the cookbook library and culinary archives, the SoFAB Meat Lab, a state-of-the-art facility offering classes and demonstrations on everything meat-related, from butchering to grilling, and the Nitty Grits podcast studio and other programs around culinary history and education.

SoFAB’s repository library includes The John & Bonnie Boyd Hospitality & Culinary Library  which contains over 11,000 volumes of culinary books, food and cocktail menus, pamphlets, archival documents and a growing number of important collections, other literature and ephemera, collected by and donated to the Southern Food & Beverage Museum.  The collection is non-circulating but available for reference. The library also contains a collection of books written by members of Les Dames d’Escoffier, a nonprofit organization of leading women in food fine beverage and hospitality.

Williams is encyclopedic on food and drink culture, especially when it comes to New Orleans. Listen to our conversation on everything from Mississippi tamales and Alabama white sauce to New Orleans Krewe of Red Beans on this edition of The Connected Table. Click below or this link