Ian McNulty: For Jazz Fest food vendors missing 2023, hard decisions, hopes to return

Ian McNulty: For Jazz Fest food vendors missing 2023, hard decisions, hopes to return
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For nearly 40 years, one of the first food vendors to open her stand at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival each day was Merline Herbert, whose Lafayette restaurant Creole Lunch House has served its distinctive Creole stuffed bread at Jazz Fest since 1983.

She would customarily start serving an hour before the gates opened so that workers, volunteers and other vendors already on the grounds could get a stuffed bread first, often for their breakfast.

This is my first stop each morning of the New Orleans Jazz Fest. The Creole stuffed bread in Food Area II with a frozen cafe au lait for breakfast! Find all of our other favorite dishes at the festival here.

But Herbert and her Creole stuffed bread were missing when Jazz Fest staged its return from the pandemic in 2022, and she won’t be at this year’s edition either.

She said through all the disruption of the pandemic, she and her family decided to keep focused on bringing their restaurant back up to speed, and so continued their festival hiatus.

“Oh, I miss everybody already,” Herbert said. “I sit at that window in my booth all day long, because of the customers. I enjoy them tremendously, they really do make you feel like family there.”

Got $5? Here's what you can eat at New Orleans Jazz Fest

Start your day with a Creole Stuffed bread and a cup of iced coffee. (Photo by David Grunfeld, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune)

At age 82, COVID risk factors are still top of mind for Herbert, too.

“I’m old, baby. I have to be careful,” she said.

Her plan, though, is to return in 2024, and she said festival officials have been supportive of her decision and encouraging her return when she’s ready.

Jazz Fest food is prized for its steadfast consistency, with vendors returning each year, often through decades, laying the foundation for people to build their own traditions and rituals around their flavors. Their ranks are composed of mostly small, often family-run businesses, which contributes to their character.

That also makes them susceptible to all the things that can impact small, family-run businesses, and in the realm of food those have been especially daunting through the pandemic era.


About Mary Weyand 11096 Articles
Mary founded Scoop Tour with an aim to bring relevant and unaltered news to the general public with a specific view point for each story catered by the team. She is a proficient journalist who holds a reputable portfolio with proficiency in content analysis and research. With ample knowledge about the Automobile industry, she also contributes her knowledge for the Automobile section of the website.

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