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No crawfish bread at Jazz Fest this year: popular vendor takes step back

John Ed Laborde, creator of crawfish bread and founder of Panorama Foods, says the decision was “daunting.”
Credit: Amy Harris/Invision/AP
Festivalgoers are seen at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, on Thursday, May 5, 2022, in New Orleans. (Photo by Amy Harris/Invision/AP)

NEW ORLEANS — The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival has a wide variety of mouth-watering tastes. But, if you were hoping to chow down on some crawfish bread this year – you’re out of luck.

One of the longest-running Jazz Fest food vendors has decided not to return this year, according to our partners at NOLA.com. This is the first time since 1987 that crawfish bread will not be available at the festival.

Crawfish bread has become a Jazz Fest staple and remains one of the most popular perennial items at the festival.

John Ed Laborde, creator of crawfish bread and founder of Panorama Foods, says the decision was “daunting.”

“One thing I learned from my daddy, there comes a time in your life when you’re less effective and maybe it’s time to move on,” Laborde told NOLA.com. “It’s just been a good run.”

Laborde is 65 years old, and the physical stress on the body from heavy lifting and working 16-hour days outdoors is becoming much more difficult. Jazz Fest is a two-week stretch, making it difficult to keep up with other catering duties such as weddings, funerals, and community events.

He says the rising costs are also a factor. From raw materials, transportation from Central Louisiana, and New Orleans hotel rooms – participating in the event can get costly.

Aside from the cost and physical activity, changes in the Jazz Fest contract was the nail in the coffin. However, Laborde did not reveal any information on those changes to NOLA.com.

“Jazz Fest has been part of my life since 1987. I love it, I’d never say anything bad about Jazz Fest; they’ve been good to me, I’ve been good to them,” Laborde said.

It all started when Laborde gave Jazz Fest producer Quint Davis a sample of his crawfish bread at a pre-festival meeting and got positive reactions. When a vendor decided not to come the following year, Panorama Foods took their spot. Since then, crawfish bread has become one of the most popular Jazz Fest foods over the past 35 years.

The dish has also gained traction online. Laborde’s son, Nicholas Laborde, started an online ordering service in 2017. The website helped to keep the business and Jazz Fest staple alive during the pandemic.

Even though Panorama Foods will not be at the festival this year, they will continue their normal catering duties. This is not the end of crawfish bread.

“It’s part of my life. It’s never going to go away, as far I’m concerned.”

The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival runs from Friday, April 28th through Sunday, May 7th.

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