Liz Williams is the executive director of the Southern Food and Beverage Museum (1609 Oretha Castle Haley Blvd., 504-569-0405; www.southernfood.org), which holds the grand opening of its new space Sept. 29. Williams spoke with Gambit about plans for the new museum and upcoming events.
What has the process been like making the transition between museum spaces?
Williams: We actually had a five-year lease at (The Outlet Collection at) Riverwalk and knew we wouldn't be there forever. We looked at that time [at the Riverwalk] as our "incubation" period and to give us time to learn about all the things we really wanted to add to the museum and how we wanted to operate it. When the time came for us to move, we already had the building we're moving into identified. It's taken a little bit longer than we've hoped — in an ideal scenario, we would just have moved from one building to the other — but we're really excited to be moving in now.
What are some new features coming to the museum?
W: We're going to have a demonstration kitchen, which means we can have all kinds of demonstrations and rent out the kitchen. It's going to be a terrific resource. We're going to have a restaurant and bar — we're really excited about that.
One thing we learned in the Riverwalk is that you can't be a food museum and be afraid of food and drink. We're going to have some very interactive exhibits in the museum, including one where you can buy sample sizes of certain foods that are featured in the museum. So, if you see the Sazerac in the museum and say, "I've never had a Sazerac before," then you can sample it and walk around the museum with it.
Also with the foods we're going to have sno-balls, which will be great especially if you come in the winter and want to try one since sno-ball stands aren't open around town like in the summertime. ... It also gave us an interesting problem, because we had to buy special trash cans. We know that if we have food that's readily available and we want people to try it, we're going to need trash cans for them. Most museums don't have trash cans around because they don't want you to leave anything behind. We had to think, "What would make a good museum trash can?"
The museum will have several trails through it. What will that look like?
W: The main part of the museum is called "The Gallery of the South: States of Taste," and we have a permanent exhibit about every single state in the South — including Washington, D.C. — and the thought behind it is that you get to understand the South through its geography.
Every [food] that there is becomes a trail through the South, so you can have the "corn trail" or the "barbecue trail" and all those pan-Southern things. You can see them in their state context, so you can see why in Texas they have beef barbecue and in Tennessee it's pork barbecue. If you're on the coast, you're going to roast oysters and that's what you're going to be barbecuing. That geographic context is important.