Melissa Martin, Mosquito Supper Club & Curious Oyster Co
Established: Mosquito Supper Club (2014) Curious Oyster Co (2015)
What They Feed:
Cajun food and sustainable seafood sourced from local farmers, fishermen, artisans & millers
Seeders & Feeders They Support: Charles Poirier, Bellegarde Bakery, Pete & Clara Gerica, Four Winds Seafood, Higgin’s Seafood, Roche Family Farms, Timmy Perrilloux, Monica’s Okra World, Isabel’s, Tony Accardo, Feliciana’s Dairy, Mauthe’s Dairy
Melissa had no choice but to fall in love with food. She grew up on Bayou Petit Caillou in Chauvin, LA in a neighborhood that included her grandmother, four aunts and uncles and too many cousins to mention. The uncles delivered fresh seafood and game, the aunts grew the vegetables and cooked everything and the kids ate. And ate. And ate. Melissa was a locavore by birthright and her early immersion into fresh, local, seasonal ingredients informed and influenced her culinary philosophy.
While working as an operations manager at the Crescent City Farmers Market Melissa realized she wanted to cook. So she started by seeking out chefs that she admired to work with and learn from them.
In the years leading up to opening her own project, Melissa spent time as the chef of a not-for-profit restaurant called Cafe Hope, which taught at risk youth how to garden and cook from scratch, in addition to valuable life skills. She also helped establish New Orleans’ well-known Satsuma Cafe and ran a catering company. Venturing out of Louisiana, she went to Napa to learn to make wine at White Rock Vineyards and cooked seasonally with Chef Kelly McCown and Chef Sarah Walz at Rubicon.
In 2014, Melissa started Mosquito Supper Club as a way to cook for small groups of people using the best ingredients she could find. To curate a dining experience was reminiscent of the food she ate growing up, a true taste of the bayou, the Chauvin version. At the supper club, Melissa serves 24 people a week (on Thursdays) and hosts a number of private parties. She wanted to create a sustainable business for herself, something that didn’t require being in the kitchen 8+ hours a day, so she would have time to spend with her son, and be able to forage and source ingredients the way she wanted: by going out and meeting the farmers, fishermen, artisans, bakers and millers and getting the product herself. “I’m reminded of all the people we support, their stories and their lives. I know when things are going well for them or if they are having tough times. I like to stay connected to people,” she says.
The food at Mosquito Supper Club is truly cajun and highlights sustainable seafood, something she noticed was missing from the New Orleans dining scene. Melissa visits the Crescent City Farmer’s Market religiously and uses Dryades Public Market for other locally sourced ingredients.
“I like for all my ingredients to tell a story – I like the ingredients to have a face to go with them. I drive down to Cocodrie, LA to get shrimp, to Lafitte for crab. I pick blackberries when they are in season and try to grow some things in my backyard.”
Melissa’s opened her second spot, Curious Oyster Co, in 2016, to share her love of bivalves. It is located inside the Dryades Public Market and offers a selection of local, East and West coast oysters. In the future, Melissa hopes to have a stand alone location for Curious Oyster Co.
Melissa continues to be inspired by her aunts, the food that they prepared when she was growing up and that they continue to prepare. She finds cooking therapeutic and relaxing and appreciates the practice and the craft of it all. “But it is only palatable if the ingredients are ones you are proud of, the ingredients must tell a story, and the story is of the people that procure them.”
Moving forward with Mosquito Supper Club, Melissa plans on doing cooking workshops and tiny private dinners on their houseboat in the Atchafalaya Basin.
Advice to New Feeders:
Get to know your local farmer, fishermen, artisans, millers etc. You should know where your food comes from and the story and people behind it.
“I love to cook, and especially love to feed people with the best possible ingredients I can find.”
“This quote from Nina Simone sums up cooking for me: ‘You have to learn to get up from the table when love is no longer being served.’ If I can’t cook with ingredients with integrity then I’d rather leave the kitchen. Because that’s what serving love is.”
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