In the fall of 2017, students enrolled in the Documentary and Oral History class at Loyola will began a new multi-semester research project documenting the experiences of service industry workers in New Orleans. Tourism is today the city’s leading business sector, surpassing even the port in total proportion of economic activity. Restaurants and bars play a crucial role in fueling and maintaining its growth. Indeed, it is difficult to pick up a glossy tourism or lifestyle magazine and not find a glowing profile of a stylish new restaurant or a rising new culinary talent.
The city’s food and beverage industry depends, however, upon thousands of cooks, servers, bartenders, bussers, dishwashers and hosts, men and women who work long and often late hours to make sure the visitors and locals alike enjoy their time out. It is not always a perfect life, and a rising cost of living in New Orleans has made it more difficult for people working in the industry to make ends meet. More troublingly, as a recent Brookings Institute study revealed, the city ranked last among 100 cities for prosperity between 2010 and 2015. While rising property values have profited some, combined with pressure from tourist-driven increase in VRBO rentals they have caused rents to escalate at a sharp rate.
In the last year, we’ve seen the conversation in the culinary world shift from the #metoo movement to a broader examination of mental health in the industry, particularly of last summer’s untimely passing of Chef Anthony Bourdain.
The Studio seeks subjects who actively work in the city’s service industry to sit for a student-conducted oral history interview that will document their work and life experience in New Orleans. Topics will include both the up and downsides of working in the service industry and its culture, the nature of tourism, how the work has changed over time, and reflections on where the city is headed. We are particularly interested in learning what the people working in this industry think about their careers, the city, and their relationship with both.
We film the interviews in a studio setting with a 2-camera setup on the campus of Loyola University New Orleans. (See the video of Christy Lorio above as an example of an interview from last fall.) You will have access to the full-length interview for your own records and will contribute to the larger project by letting the studio record your experiences for the archive.
If this sounds like you, please get in touch with Dr. Justin Nystrom at email@example.com and I will be in touch!