This interview with Melissa Araujo was conducted by Tulane student, Abigail Cramer as a part of the Southern Food & Beverage Museum’s New Orleans con Sabor Latino exhibit. This exhibit was the result of a joint effort by Tulane University, SoFaB, and community partners.
In Dr. Sarah Fouts’ interdisplinary seminar, Food, Migration, & Culture, Tulane students worked with Latino members of the New Orleans food industry to create a series of oral histories exploring the role of Latin culture in our city’s restaurant scene. With stories ranging from famous restauranteurs to line cooks, New Orleans con Sabor Latino demonstrates the diversity of experience within this community, as well as their vital contributions to the Big Easy.
|Read Oral History Full Text Below|
New Orleans restauranteur Melissa Araujo defines the role of food in culture and lifestyle in this clip. Her time spent with family in Italy and Central America has refined her farm-to-table sensibility and emphasized the importance of memory in her cuisine.
Executive chef Araujo sources produce from local farmers for her boutique-style catering company Saveur. Her pop-up, Alma, showcases her Honduran heritage.
Melissa Araujo, Oral History Full Text
“My name is Melissa Araujo. I am the executive chef at Saveur catering and also Alma popups. I didn’t have a choice of my career. I knew that I was always gonna do something in cooking.
I come from very strong women, opinionated women. You know, they are the backbone of my family in both sides of my family. My mother is Sicilian-Italian and my dad is Mayan-Honduran with Portuguese.
They drilled on me that locally sourced and farm to table was the best…best thing ever. I didn’t know what it was a supermarket ‘til I was older. Going to the butcher was easy for me to do, going to the fisherman was easy too.
My childhood was split fifty percent of it in Honduras, and the other half in Italy. And that gave me a love for the culture, and learning through the food of the people, you know. Waking up at four o’clock in the morning to get up to feed the chickens or the damn pigs was not my ideal childhood, but it taught me discipline. It taught me, you know, why we need to respect the animals – they are giving up their lives so we can feed ourselves. And not to be wasteful, at all. I’m one of those chefs that believes that you can use everything that you have in your kitchen.
Every business that I open in the future, or even those two, they are a reflection of me, you know. Alma in… in her own right, it’s very personal. Even in the name, which “alma” means soul. My Mayan grandmother had a profound influence on me and on my mother and the way that I see life.
Food is memory – every time you eat something, in the back of your head, automatically, you memorize that feeling, you memorize that taste. And in every culture, you have those dishes, and that’s how you relate in every day of your life, you know? And it’s… everything is tied to one another – your traditions come to the food, and the way you live your life. And that’s what I’m in the pursuit of – memories.”
Special thanks to the Tulane University Stone Center for Latin American Studies, the New Orleans Center for the Gulf South, and the Tulane University Center for Public Service for their assistance and support of this project.