New Orleans is back.

Let me explain. The first trip I made here was in 2009, four years after Hurricane Katrina crippled the city by flooding 80 percent of the Big Easy.


My 2009 trip was to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Fest, one of the largest music events on the planet. Like everything else in New Orleans, Jazz Fest had to rebuild itself after Katrina.

While that 40th jazz fest was a rousing success, New Orleans still did not feel like New Orleans. There just was not enough going on once you left the fairgrounds where the festival is held.  

Then last April 20 came the Deepwater Horizon oil platform explosion and BP oil spill that over the next three months aimed 4.9 million barrels of oil directly at the Gulf states of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida.

No Katrina recovery could continue if the Gulf lost its supply of local seafood.  Next to its music, nothing is more important to New Orleans than its food.

The fear it would be lost is what we found here last year when Helena Bottemiller and I came to the Gulf to see for ourselves what the impact was going to be on New Orleans and the surrounding areas that Katrina had taken out.

So, after personally being here in ’09 and ’10, and feeling and hearing mostly about the damage from Katrina and the temporary loss of seafood at this time last year, this visit is very different.

This year is about more artists and musicians on the streets than I can ever remember seeing.  This year is about chockfull local seafood menus.  This year is about is about wall-to-wall people in the French Quarter and casinos.  

So beginning this week, Food Safety News will be exploring how the Gulf seafood industry is doing a year after the BP oil spill.  I will be here for the remainder of this week and Helena and Gretchen will follow me to New Orleans in mid-June for Institute of Food Technologies (IFT).

For my part, I am going to ease my way into this story by attending what could be the biggest and best Jazz Fest since the 2001 pre-9/11 event.  The weather in New Orleans this weekend is near-perfect. 

The lineup over a dozen stages at the fairgrounds includes the likes of Bon Jovi, Jimmy Buffet, Jon Mellencamp, Gregg Allman, Irma Thomas, Arlo Guthrie, Cyndi Lauper, Willie Nelson and hundreds more.   

Nor do I expect there will be any shortage of Gulf seafood and liquid beverages, but someone needs to check all this out personally, and I’ve accepted the assignment.