So I decided to get out of my apartment today after morning work and enjoy the sun. Making lots of stops, including to Ellen Macomber‘s new gallery location on Magazine (next to Mojo’s) and Melissa Martin’s Mosquito Supper Club on Dryades, now shared with Levee Baking Co and Seasoned, the gently used kitchenware shop. Ellen was busy painting one of her beautiful map windows, talking a blue streak as always, sharing her plans for hustling every angle she can so she can work at what she wants and her family can live well enough in New Orleans on New Orleans money. Just back from Mexico, tanned and full of ideas about how to get she and her family back there and back to Cuba. Of course, she took time out to curse me out for missing her last event. At the door, she shouts out, “Love your face!” and maybe called me a bitch too, a word probably used for a dozen different meanings by Ellen over the course of one day. Leaving Magazine still shaking my head over Ellen, I headed to Dryades to see if could find Melissa’s place. I have offered less support to Melissa, as I have yet to make to the Supper Club. I have no good excuse as I know Melissa’s food and her ability to create an entire evening around it. She was at the entrance, musing over something as I walked in, but greeted me warmly and showed me the space and we talked of her plans and introduced her colleagues. It’s hard to not compare these 2 Louisiana women: Ellen- raised in Abbeville and New Orleans, has such city energy, so outwardly tough and moving constantly, who only trusts wisdom that comes from experience. Melissa, the small Chauvin girl so often quiet when you are talking that you worry she has mentally left the conversation, but then she acknowledges and builds on something you say and you say, “YES. That’s exactly what I meant.” Melissa and I worked together at Market Umbrella (one of a few outstanding chefs to do so, along with Kristen Essig and Aaron Burgau) so I know her work ethic but also know how long and how many stops it has taken her to get to this place where she is doing the kind of food and the kind of presentation she has always dreamed of doing. I also know that for her, to be successful is only complete as part of a team, but also that she is not necessarily comfortable to be the head of that team. Conversely, Ellen fiercely guards her freedom in order to be able to adapt quickly which means her work time is most often just her in her studio. But that constant adaptation has allowed her to realize her ideas more fully and has also kept her work from being cliched which makes her a leader whether she likes it or not. (Which she doesn’t. She is visibly unnerved when I call her one.) Fascinating to see these 2 women (mothers too) working without any institutional support in their field, outnumbered by the men in their field who often get more coverage and the few plum jobs, without the ease of decent municipal infrastructure and yet determined to stay and triumph.

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