Nicholas Chisesi's great-great grandfather started Chisesi Bros. Meats (5221 Jefferson Hwy., 504-822-3550; www.chisesibros.com) in 1908, originally selling live chickens in the French Quarter. Today, the business is an iconic New Orleans food brand, best known for hams and deli meats sold at grocery stores and used at po-boy shops all across the area. The company will soon begin making boudin, hogshead cheese and andouille, citing a growing interest in these regional specialty meats. Nicholas Chisesi helps run the company along with his siblings Philip, Cody and Charisse and their father Philip.
: Your hams will be on a lot of Easter tables this weekend. Do you have to ramp up to meet demand?
Chisesi: Everything dips down for Lent, when so many people here go to seafood. Then Easter gives us this bump up, but that can be a challenge for us because you're getting this demand all at once after being slow. Our customers, the grocery stores, they're focused on getting seafood and then they need hams, but it's not like making popcorn. We have a process that takes time. The hams are cured and then we hickory-smoke them for eight hours. A lot of people don't realize that it's all made right here by Louisiana people.
: We see your company name on menus all the time. Do your peers in other markets have that kind of brand awareness?
C: People in other cities may have their own brands, but you have to remember that New Orleans people are extremely loyal to whata they want and what they ask for. People want to put our name on their menus and that's great, just as long as they're buying from us. If we find out they're not, we ask them to take it off.
: How significant is it that your company is family run?
C: My dad is going to make 77 in April, and he's told us he might have given it up after (Hurricane) Katrina. It was hard losing everything he'd worked for. The business was destroyed, he lost his house. His brother, who ran the company with him, died after the storm. It was hard. But he realized that the next generation wanted to keep it going, and that's really why it's still here. — IAN MCNULTY