The Museum was founded in 2004 by Matt Konigsmark, Gina Warner, and Elizabeth Williams, who is now President. It got its start through a small exhibit on the history and influences of beverages in New Orleans. With help from co-founders Elizabeth Pearce and a growing board of interested foodies from around the South, the exhibits grew. Pearce curated an exhibit based on the revival of restaurants in post-Hurricane Katrina New Orleans called Restaurant Restorative that was featured at the 2006 James Beard Foundation Awards. From there, it was only a matter of finding the proper space for a full-sized museum on food and beverages that would cover the entire South, not just New Orleans and Louisiana. In the summer of 2008, the Museum finally found a home in Riverwalk Marketplace, a shopping mall right on the Mississippi River in the Warehouse District of New Orleans.
On September 1, 2011, the Southern Food and Beverage Museum announced it will be relocating to a larger space on O. C. Haley Boulevard in historic Central City, New Orleans.. The groundbreaking at the historic Dryades Market building happened on June 25, 2012. The new facility opened on September 29, 2014. Plans for the new location include a full service restaurant, a children's gallery, a culinary innovation center, and an exhibit for every southern state.
In May 2011 Southern Food and Beverage Museum was named one of the five great museums devoted to food by Saveur magazine.
The Southern Food and Beverage Museum features a wide range of food and beverage related exhibits.
The Leah Chase Louisiana Gallery is a permanent gallery focused on the food and traditions of Louisiana. The gallery is named after New Orleans creole chef Leah Chase. Louisiana Eats! Laissez Faire – Savoir Fare, as the exhibit is called, covers everything from beignets to harvesting crawfish, to the evolution of jambalaya through colonial and native foods.
Bruning's Bar is a bar from the 1830s that is in the process of being restored. It was salvaged from the wreckage of Bruning's Restaurant, the third oldest restaurant in New Orleans, after Hurricane Katrina. The bar is also used as such during special events.
Tout de Sweet: All About Sugar shows the important role that sugar has played in Louisiana as well as the world, and also what an important role Louisiana has played in the sugar industry.
Lena Richards: A Pioneer in Food TV is an exhibit and oral history project about New Orleans culinary icon Lena Richards, who had a twice-weekly cooking show on WDSU-TV in 1949-50.
Acadian to Cajun: From Migration to Commercialization is a multi-media exhibit that traces the Acadian expulsion from Nova Scotia in the 1750s and the community's settlement in Louisiana through an exploration of narratives of food and culture. This exhibit was curated by a group of students from Toronto.
Capturing the Coast: Eating from the Gulf tells the story of the Gulf of Mexico; its changing coast and health, the food that is fished there, and the culture of people who live and work there. It explores the food of the gulf, the history of fishing in it, and what the future can hold in the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill in 2010.
The Southern Table is an exhibit in the development process. It will showcase place settings from each Southern state in America, either from the respective Governor's mansion or a representative piece from a local artist. To accompany the table, there will be matching exhibits for each state discussing their culinary traditions and specialties. As of September, 2009, Maryland, Texas and Arkansas have their own separate exhibits.
Corn in America is an exhibit that discusses the history of one of America's most important grains. To demonstrate the huge impact corn has had, there is an extensive display of corn-shaped items included in the exhibit.
Cookbooks from Southern Communities is a collection of representative community cookbooks from Southern states. Visitors are encouraged to page through the books and see the stories and commonalities that cookbooks can show.
The Menu Project is an ongoing exhibit and call for menus from restaurants throughout the South. These are useful in highlighting similarities and differences throughout the South, as well as following trends and preferences in the food world.
The Southern Food and Beverage Museum usually hosts events on weekends to allow visitors to interact with food in a more traditional way. The events can be anything from cooking demonstrations to workshops on beer making or rum tasting. They are well supported by the New Orleans food community, which is especially evident at these events and galas where many famous chefs and restaurants contribute food and support.
The Museum also hosts children's culinary camps that teach kids how to cook and appreciate food. There are also lesson plans for teachers to use to teach history and culture through a culinary approach.
Red Beans and Ricely Yours: The Museum reprinted Christopher Blake's 1982 cookbook in both 2005 and 2006. It is a collection of traditional recipes from New Orleans, beginning with Louis Armstrong's favorite, the classic red beans and rice.
Room in the Bowl: In partnership with the Culinary Trust of the International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP), the Museum published this collection of essays and photographs examining the signature dish of Louisiana: a pot of gumbo.
Okra is SoFab's online blog, with recipes and features by multiple contributors, all experts on food and food ways of the south. Liz Williams, museum director, writes the Bread and Butter feature, which focuses on her expertise in food law.
The Museum of the American Cocktail is housed in the Southern Food and Beverage Museum. It chronicles the extensive history of the cocktail in America and provides a wealth of information regarding the social and cultural impact of alcoholic beverages.
In late October 2013, SoFAB opened a culinary library on O.C. Haley Boulevard, a short distance from where the new museum will be located. This research library is open to the public and houses over 10,000 volumes including cookbooks, magazines, and books about food history and food politics.
It is also home to a growing archival collection. The archive will be a resource for scholars examining the culture of the South and the role of food and beverages in cultural history.
The library and archive contain information about food from all over the world, not limited to the American South.