When the levees failed in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, Willie Mae's Scotch House, a corner restaurant (and residence) in the Treme neighborhood, succumbed to the destructive power of the rising water. Over the past year-and-one-half, Oxford, Mississippi, restaurateur John Currence has led volunteers from the Southern Foodways Alliance to restore this culinary and cultural landmark and put ninety-one-year-old Willie Mae Seaton back in her home, back in her kitchen.
In March, Seaton moved back into her home. On Monday, April 1st, Seaton stood at her stove once again, turning out the plates of fried chicken and beans and rice that, two years ago, earned her a James Beard Award (the highest culinary award bestowed in America) and served to inspire Currence and a host of others.
To date, nearly 200,000 dollars has been raised. And more than 200 volunteers - from as far away as California and as close as the French Quarter - have worked the job.
In the weeks to come, the Seaton family will endeavor to operate the restaurant on a daily basis. Call 504-822-9503 to get the latest hours and days of operation. As of today, May 22, Willie Mae's is open for lunch!
'Above the Line: Saving Willie Mae's Scotch House,' a documentary film by Joe York of the University of Mississippi Center for Documentary Projects, celebrates their efforts, the determination of Seaton, and the import of neighborhood New Orleans institutions. Look for a screening soon in your neck of the woods.