In July, 2018, Epicurious, “the ultimate food resource for the home cook,” tasted 16 brands of mayonnaise to determine the very best one. The testers selected top-selling brands widely available across the country, and included a few regional cult favorites (e.g. Duke’s and Blue Plate) easily available online. They also included Miracle Whip, which isn’t technically mayonnaise, but is a popular as a mayo substitute in the Midwest and elsewhere. In a blind tasting, their panel of editors found Blue Plate Mayonnaise “The Best Mayonnaise You Can Buy at the Grocery Store.”
The panel described its flavor as “bright, lemony even, and though it looked a bit gloppy upon opening, a quick stir revealed that it had the perfect creamy texture.” Blue Plate was one of the few brands in the taste test made exclusively with egg yolks as opposed to whole eggs, which testers claimed gave it “a more satisfying, homemade flavor.” Editor Emily Johnson detected the “sharp bite” Blue Plate has at the back of the tongue, which is ideal for a sauce, and when eaten with cherry tomatoes, the acidity softens, enhancing the fruit, and making the whole bite taste more tomatoey. “This is 100% the mayo you want on your next BLT,” she added. And on your favorite Po-Boy; Blue Plate Mayonnaise guarantees an authentic New Orleans flavor.
Before the early 1900’s, mayonnaise was considered a gourmet condiment that could only be acquired from what today we would call “artisan” sources. Blue Plate was one of the first commercially prepared mayonnaise producers and distributors in the United States, beginning in 1929 when Wesson-Snowdrift Company, an offshoot of The Southern Oil Company, began to produce mayonnaise in a warehouse in Gretna, Louisiana. The company chose “Blue Plate” for its product from the popular term “blue plate special,” meaning a full meal at a modest price. The commercial production of mayonnaise in a city renowned for its food was considered a revolutionary culinary modernization.
In 1941, construction began on a sleek, white concrete factory with rounded glass-brick corners across the river in Mid-City, at what is now 1315 S. Jefferson Davis Parkway. Designed by New Orleans architect, August Perez Junior, the Blue Plate building was completed and opened for business in November 1943. The Streamline Moderne structure, with its terra-cotta tile and dazzling art deco sign, soon became known to many New Orleanians as the place where “ya mama’s mynezz” was made. Over time, the Blue Plate brand also included margarine, jelly, salad dressing, and barbecue sauce.
Locally delivered daily in small trucks to each store, Blue Plate Mayonnaise was marketed throughout the Southeast. In 1960, Hunt Foods of California bought Wesson Oil and Blue Plate Foods, Inc., but in 1974, William B. Reily III, whose grandfather founded the popular Luzianne brand, acquired Blue Plate Foods from Hunt-Wesson, and the mayonnaise ownership returned to its Louisiana homeland and became part of the Wm. B. Reily and Company family. Over the next 30 years, Reily acquired several brands from both regional and national companies. They include Swans Down Cake Flour, Try Me Sauces & Seasonings (namely Tiger Sauce), French Market Coffees, New England Tea & Coffee.
While the Reily Foods Company is still headquartered in New Orleans, the company made the decision to shut down operations there in 2000, moving production to the company factory in Knoxville. The factory closure, coupled with the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, seemed to ensure the factory’s destruction, but developers turned the iconic building into loft apartments in 2011. If you find Blue Plate there, it will be in someone’s refrigerator.