Before Katrina, my only experience with New Orleans was visiting my friend Stephanie on a layover on my way to Honduras. She toured me around Desire Street, where she lived and worked in the Eighth and Ninth Wards. When I finally got back to the city in 2007 and spent a few days there, Stephanie once again played tour guide, but all the homes we’d seen before were either completely gone or were a pile of ruins on a barren, street-lined field.
I’d returned to New Orleans to help Ray Cannata in his efforts to rebuild the city one house at a time. We’d work during the day (my wife, kids and I helped with the children at his church while my much-more-skilled father-in-law gutted houses), and at night we’d enjoy the city’s food and it’s music. Ray was adamant that part of saving the city was to spend money at its most sacred establishments. We saw the Rebirth Brass Band at the Maple Leaf Bar, and had incredible meal after meal. Ray knew and loved the city so well that I was shocked to learn he moved there after Katrina for the purpose of being part of its restoration.
What I didn’t realize is that Ray was also on a mission to eat at every one of the 600+ non-chain restaurants within the city limits. When my friend, Paste film writer Michael Dunaway, heard about Ray’s quest, he decided to make a documentary about it and enlisted me as an executive producer. The Man Who Ate New Orleans will wrap with an extravagant last supper this November.
Buzz around the film has been building and enthusiasm has been coming from some of our filmmaking and culinary heroes. Yesterday, the story of Ray and of our documentary was the lead story on ABCNews.com.
Watch this space for more news about the Gasoline Films/Paste production The Man Who Ate New Orleans and our adventures in filmmaking.
Josh Jackson is Paste’s editor-in-chief. Follow him on Twitter at @joshjackson_