The Supper Camp
How one Louisiana chef made a welcoming space on the water
Photo: Cedric Angeles
When the New Orleans chef Melissa Martin began craving a slower pace and deeper connections—to her coastal Louisiana roots, food, and the people she cooks for—she started Mosquito Supper Club, a wildly popular weekly ticketed dining experience. The same urge led her to buy a houseboat and host leisurely meals in the Atchafalaya Basin. “If the supper club feels like coming to my house,” she says, “the houseboat is like coming to camp.”
Having grown up in Chauvin, Louisiana, around houseboats—her uncles spent most of duck season aboard floating hunting camps—Martin dreamed of hosting dinner parties in the swamp. In 2015 she bought a secondhand duck-hunting houseboat. Stripping away layers of paneling, she found an early-twentieth-century trapper’s cabin made from sinker cypress mounted on a forty-by-fifty-foot barge.
Martin’s design goal—“take it back to rustic”—could also serve as shorthand for her approach to hospitality. “Did my mom keep a beautiful kitchen?” she says. “Yes, but we ate on Corelle, and we ate like kings because everybody we knew were shrimpers or crabbers. My parents never purchased a fish. My childhood was all about people getting together and sharing food and good times.”
Martin hosts up to eight guests at a time on the boat. The ideal experience? “Sunday dinner,” she says. “We arrive around noon, go kayaking, read in the hammock.” She cooks on a camp stove—peel-and-eat crabs and shrimp, fish, plenty of summer produce—and serves it all on the screened porch. There’s wine and local beer on ice. Watermelon, too. After dinner, she loves taking guests to Whiskey River, her favorite Cajun dance hall. “It’s five minutes from the landing. We walk with lanterns across the levee. It’s one of the most romantic things you can do.”