A few weeks ago we had an episode all about the history of the Po’ Boy sandwich. Gendusa Bakery was at the core of that discussion. As I learned more about Gendusa Bakery, I knew I had to get them on the show. Today’s episode features Jason Gendusa. He is the fourth generation owner of the John Gendusa Baker in New Orleans. He dives into the history of this iconic New Orleans bakery.
John Gendusa Bakery Gets Its Start
To fully understand the contribution John Gendusa made to the culinary world, we have to start at the beginning. John Gendusa grew up in Sicily before making his way to the states. One thing led to another and he found himself purchasing a bakery that also doubled as a grocery store.
Over the years he phased out the grocery side of the business and focused full time on the bread. Sandwich bread at the time produced a unique problem. The loaves were irregular. Jason pointed out that you might be sitting at lunch with a friend. One of you might get the end of a loaf that was skinny and lacked substance. The other might get a sandwich made with bread near the middle. This would be more substantial.
In the 1920s, Bennie and Clovis Martin approached John Gendusa and a partnership was born. The Martin Brothers needed a sizable loaf that would help feed striking streetcar workers. John created a loaf that was innovative and was a perfect fit for this type of sandwich. He created a uniform loaf that was an equal width throughout the entire length of the loaf. This eliminated the skinny sandwich problem. The Po’ Boy was born!
Katrina and Beyond
What stood out to me on this episode is the resilience of the folks in New Orleans. Jason commented on how they accept hurricanes as a fact of life. They close down and get safe when needed, but otherwise operate business as usual. John Gendusa Bakery was destroyed when Katrina hit. Jason originally wasn’t going to rebuild. However, he was encouraged by the locals and decided to rebuild. That commitment and dedication to the business ensured that this New Orleans staple was going to be around for years to come.
Where To Find John Gendusa Bakery
Jason told us that Gendusa Bakery does not have a retail store. However, they do have an active Facebook page here. You can also look at their website here. If you are in the New Orleans area, there is a good chance the bread you’ll find on a Po’ Boy comes from Gendusa Bakery. They even list some places they service on their site. Make sure you check out this iconic New Orleans institution.
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