Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

New Orleans without Seafood Gumbo? Oil Spill's Unsavory Toll

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

New Orleans without Seafood Gumbo? Oil Spill's Unsavory Toll

Article excerpt

The Gulf of Mexico oil spill has already led to a 10-day shutdown of fishing off parts of the Louisiana coast. New Orleans restaurants are coping, but they're also planning for worse to come.

The BP oil spill and its effect on state fisheries may soon force a rewriting of New Orleans menus from the seafood cuisine that the Crescent City is best known for to less distinctive fare.

Seafood is a cultural benchmark of a proper New Orleans lifestyle, where events such as high school graduation parties and church fundraisers usually feature long tables spilling over with crawfish. Tourists come to sample cups of gumbo and more refined fare like shrimp Clemenceau, which, when successful, can turn chefs into local celebrities.

From neighborhood joints to French Quarter bistros, however, restaurants of all shapes and sizes are tracking the oil spill's progress to determine what they need to do to keep dishing out their signature items. It could mean stockpiling seafood, ordering from Texas at higher costs, or - in a worst-case scenario - taking items off menus altogether. But restaurateurs hope it won't come to that.

The most significant threat to that culture so far came Sunday when the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, announced a 10-day ban on all recreational and commercial fishing between the mouth of the Mississippi River and Florida's Pensacola Bay.

Despite its potential effect on eateries, the stoppage is supported by the Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board. "We want to make sure no product from those areas go to marketplace," says Executive Director Ewell Smith. "The safety of our consumers is priority No. 1."

Restaurants looking for backup plans

But restaurateurs in New Orleans are starting to look elsewhere for supplies in case the ban lasts longer than 10 days. At Frankie & Johnny's, an Uptown institution serving up heaping plates of crawfish and oysters since 1942, co-owner Tony Cortello says rather than ordering day-to-day, he is now ordering seafood for the entire week. …

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