James Beard 2022 Winner, Melissa Martin
Years and years of putting your heart and soul into your passion can eventually pay off. Melissa Martin, chef-owner of Mosquito Supper Club, won the 2022 James Beard Foundation Award for Best South: Chef and Best Book: U.S. Foodways for her cookbook Mosquito Supper Club: Cajun Recipes from a Disappearing Bayou.
Martin is no stranger to food. Born and raised on the coast, she grew up cooking in the kitchen and eating Cajun meals with her family. After graduating from Loyola, she worked as an adult literacy teacher before moving to California. There, she enhanced her culinary skills while working in Napa Valley. She returned to New Orleans where she opened Satsuma Café and worked at Café Hope.
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In 2014, she opened Mosquito Supper Club, a communal dining series located in a house-turned restaurant. Initially, 24 guests could come and dine at either two farmhouse tables in a dining room and listen to stories about life on the bayou while helping themselves to hearty bayou cuisine. It later expanded to two dining rooms with communal tables, garden seating, a bar serving classic and seasonal cocktails, and a four-course menu due to its growing following.
When the New Orleans community fell silent due to COVID-19, she took all those Cajun recipes she grew up on and compiled them into a cookbook. Born and raised on the coast, she grew up cooking in the kitchen and eating dishes such as jambalaya, duck gumbo, shrimp étouffée, and her grandmother's oyster stew. She compiled these recipes into the cookbook Mosquito Supper Club: Cajun Recipes from a Disappearing Bayou. In it, she categorizes recipes based on an ingredient and writes a personal essay dedicated to that ingredient. Her cookbook was awarded Cookbook of the Year and Best American Cookbook by IACP in 2020.
Mosquito Supper Club's motto as a small business is to be a model for sustainability through service and work. They do this by paying workers fair wages, recycling food scraps, using locally-sourced ingredients, and working four days a week.
Mosquito Supper Club is open on Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. They are open year-round (except in August when staff members are taking a break).