Joel Brown, the owner of Kosher Cajun restaurant in New Orleans, grew up in New Orleans. He attended Lakeshore Hebrew Day School in New Orleans before Torah High School of Texas, a small boys' yeshiva. Brown attended Yeshiva University in New York for two years before leaving to start his restaurant. Joel and his wife Natalie have three children.
Joel talks about his relatives who live in the South, his earliest childhood memories, and how his parents settled in the New Orleans area. He details his educational experiences in New Orleans, graduating from Torah High School of Texas in Dallas before spending six months in Israel at Machon Meir, a Zionist yeshiva, and Yeshiva University in New York, where Joel studied for two years. He discusses his Jewish upbringing, the Conservative shul he and his family attended, and his early love of kosher food and cooking, which inspired him to open a Kosher Cajun restaurant in New Orleans. Joel details the events of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, preparing his restaurant and home for the storm, evacuating north towards Memphis, Tennessee, and the family dog passing away en route – a heart attack caused by stress. For ten months, Joel and his family stayed in Memphis, connecting with the Jewish community there, and reconnecting with members of his congregation in New Orleans, who evacuated to Memphis and attended Baron Hirsch Synagogue, a large Orthodox synagogue in the city. Joel reflects on the uncertainty he felt during this time, not knowing the condition of his home, business, and belongings, or when he would be able to return to New Orleans and get back to work. He describes the lasting friendship he formed in Memphis with other evacuees, finally returning to New Orleans to assess the damage in his home and restaurant and the many trips back and forth from Memphis to New Orleans. Finally, Joel and his family moved back to New Orleans and reopened Kosher Cajun, which became a central meeting place for the Jewish community and out-of-town visitors. He laments the lives lost during Hurricane Katrina and those that never returned to New Orleans after the storm but is hopeful for the future that his children, community, and the city will inherit.