Restaurateurs and diners nationwide are organizing fund-raising events and seeking jobs for refugees from New Orleans restaurants.

Owners of New Orleans restaurants are struggling to determine ‘what, if anything, was left’ of one of America’s ‘most distinctive culinary cultures,’ the New York Times reported today.

The website of the Southern Foodways Alliance, which promotes the South’s food cultures and is affiliated with the University of Mississippi, began listing restaurant jobs and efforts to bring relief to New Orleans’s food community.

About 55,000 people, almost 10% of the labor force, had jobs in about 3,400 restaurants before Hurricane Katrina ruined the southern city.

With homes and livelihoods gone, sommeliers, sauce chefs, line cooks, dishwashers, waiters, have scattered across many states and are not likely to return for a long time, if ever.

‘Most of the city’s best-known restaurants are in the French Quarter, Uptown and in the Garden District, which remained relatively dry. But there were still reports of fires, looting and other damage,’ The New York Times reported.

In contrast to Brad Brennan’s assertion that his family’s eight restaurants, including Commander’s Palace, would rebuild, Frank Brigtsen, a lifelong New Orleans resident, is closing Brigtsen’s restaurant.

‘We won’t have a livelihood, because the city won’t be able to support it,’ he said. ‘There’s a chance it might resurrect itself, but there’s not going to be tourism for many years.’

‘For food lovers, the loss of a city that produced chefs like Paul Prudhomme and Emeril Lagasse and taught a nation how to eat gumbo, po’ boys and étouffée, is incalculable,’ The Times observed.

Written by Howard G Goldberg in New York