From the Director’s Desk: The SoFAB National Culinary Heritage Register


Photo by Ashley Young

Food and beverage practices not only play a major role in America’s cultural identity, but they also offer valuable insights into the country’s past and present environment, economy, and social structures. That is why food and beverage culture warrants museums and other study. Understanding when, where, and how American food and beverage practices have developed allows for a more complete understanding of America’s culture and history. Mapping the origins and development of America’s complex culinary traditions is a daunting task, and as of yet, there has been no concerted effort to do so. By creating the National Culinary Heritage Register, the SoFAB Institute hopes to begin the important process of recording America’s extensive and flavorful foodways.

The SoFAB National Culinary Heritage Register is a list of culinary products, processes, inventions, traditions, historic locations and establishments that are at least 60 years old and have contributed significantly to the development of American foodways. The first and only register of its kind, the National Culinary Heritage Register is an initiative designed to explore and preserve the complex history of food and beverage in America. It will be a growing resource in the mapping and identification of places with historic culinary importance, available online.

What is eligible for the National Culinary Heritage Register?

In order to create a full and expansive map of America’s culinary history and landscape, the SOFAB Institute has designed a broad and flexible set of criteria for acceptance to the Register.

Subject Category

Unlike the National Register of Historic Places, the Culinary Heritage Register does not focus on built environment. Rather, the Register acknowledges any significant culinary product, process, invention, location, tradition, and establishment at least 60 years old that may or may not be associated with exact physical sites. The Register includes:

  1. Subjects that may be associated with a specific building or property, such as continuously operating restaurants, stores, factories, mills, farms, distilleries.

  2. Subjects, such as culinary inventions, processes, and traditions, that may be attached to a geographical location, like a city or region, but not a specific physical site.

  3. Establishments, like restaurants, stores, factories, etc., that no longer exist but were of particular historical significance to America’s food and beverage culture.

  4. Locations that represent a significant point of importance in the world of food and drink, such as the birthplace of an important chef, food innovator, or even keeper of food traditions or the place where a significant culinary event occurred, like the Boston Tea Party.

Criteria for Determining Significance

Applicants must prove that the nominee has made a significant impact on American food and beverage culture. Examples of what makes a subject significant to America’s culinary heritage include:

  1. The nominee location is associated with the origin of what may be considered a distinctly American food or beverage or an American take on a food or beverage.

  2. The nominee location is associated with the origin of or is well-known for a specific regional food or beverage.

  3. The nominee location is associated with a traditional and/or uniquely American way of preparing food or beverage.

  4. The nominee location was the first and/or longest continuously-running culinary establishment of a particular type (restaurant/store/farm/factory/mill/etc.) in the United States.

  5. The nominee location is associated with a major American culinary brand.

  6. The nominee location altered or impacted the ways in which food or beverage is produced, distributed, or consumed in the United States and the world.

How can I nominate something for the Register?

To nominate a location for the National Culinary Heritage Register, submit a completed application and $45 application fee  to 1609 Oretha C. Haley Boulevard, New Orleans LA 70113. Checks should be made out to The SoFAB Institute. After the SOFAB Institute has received the nomination, the applicant will be sent an email confirmation of receipt. Registrants will be listed on the Register, located on the SoFAB Institute website and receive a Certificate of Registration. More information about the register and an application form can be found at

Help us build this Register as a resource for you, researchers, and the future.


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