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Where Y’Eat: As New Orleans Life Returns, Patience, Empathy Still Key Ingredients

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Ian McNulty
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Setting the table for another New Orleans meal

The pandemic stopped everything, shook it all around in the dice cup of life, and spilled it back on the table.

We need to remember this as we go forward, as we embrace the comeback and make it happen.

We owe it to each other to recognize that coming back from this does not mean we are precisely or immediately where we were before, and that many may be trying to navigate it anew.

New Orleans certainly is coming back. The city feels vibrant and Jazz Fest is about to throw this place into overdrive.

And here, right now, we can acknowledge that these past two years have taken a toll, and that redemption might not happen overnight.

That is true all over, but it shows up so vividly and so publicly in the realm of hospitality, this intersection of New Orleans economy and culture, this place defined by personal interactions, this place where so many of us connect.

This hospitality town is getting back to what it does, after seeing everything fall apart. I’m ready to dive in. But it also feels like a nervous homecoming after so many undulating, gut-wrenching turns since March 2020. Everyone felt that plunge, and everyone did what they had to do to climb back up.

Now people who were out of work need to recoup. Businesses that were battered down need to build up. People who were shut in and closed off need release, they need to connect.

This is what hospitality is all about. We can define how hospitality feels by the way we engage it, on either side of that transaction.

You can see every friction as a trigger. Or you can see that we have been through a lot, sometimes quietly, sometimes loudly, certainly collectively. We can give each other the break we deserve.

These are the good times we were longing for when everything seemed so bleak. With patience, with empathy, we can do our bit to make them the times we need.

Ian covers food culture and dining in New Orleans through his weekly commentary series Where Y’Eat.