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Willie Mae's Scotch House (N.O.)


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#31 Mayhaw Man

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Posted 03 February 2006 - 10:21 AM

My question would be is there higher ground in the neighborhood where her restaurant could be moved?  I'd hate to think of all this work being done while the building remains the danger zone should, God forbid, another storm bring about another flood.
Thanks for posting the link to the pics.

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Well, that neighborhood hadn't flooded in a couple of hundred years, and we're all kind of hoping that this time round they build the levees to a degree where they don't collapse when they are finally needed.

It was a flood caused by collapsing or breaking levees. The hurricane was bad everywhere and caused much damage, but the levee breaks are what destroyed much of New Orleans. On Monday morning we were all calling round congratulating each other on our luck and discussing what day we were going to drag back into work.

By Monday afternoon around 6, we were wondering if we were ever going to return.

And also, you would have an easier time redirecting a Cat 4 hurricane than you would telling Mrs. Seaton that she will need to move. I would hate to be in that guy's shoes. Oh boy.
Brooks Hamaker, aka "Mayhaw Man"

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#32 Mayhaw Man

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Posted 20 February 2006 - 09:59 AM

Photos of weekend 5

This past weekend, John Currence of City Grocery in Oxford, MS (he's the guy in this week's pictures holding the old Scotch House sign-the guy who looks like he just got off of an 8 hours shift in the bottom of a coal mine) and a couple of helpers worked on framing a new roof on the place. John can not only cook his ass off, but he is a skilled carpenter, as well. He bombed it down from Oxford on Thursday night, worked all day on Friday and Saturday (in some crummy weather, I might add) and shot back up I-55 on Sunday. Nice work, John.
Brooks Hamaker, aka "Mayhaw Man"

There's a train everyday, leaving either way...

#33 Mayhaw Man

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Posted 20 February 2006 - 04:25 PM

Click on this link and scroll down a bit to "Recovery Menu" and you can see a very nice piece on Willie Mae Seaton, the work going on at her place, and the seriously depressing scope of the damage to JUST ONE BUILDING among a couple of hundred thousand.

And as you are watching, the half million estimate is about 350k high, but it doesn't make much difference, as it's not there to spend, anyway. Hopefully, soon, we will have some good news on that front, as well.
Brooks Hamaker, aka "Mayhaw Man"

There's a train everyday, leaving either way...

#34 Gifted Gourmet

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Posted 20 February 2006 - 05:00 PM

I got this email just last week from a new member of eGullet, Nancie McDermott, who lives in Chapel Hill, NC:

I joined SFA last fall, and just returned from a weekend working as a volunteer on restoring Willie Mae's Scotch House, a small neighborhood restaurant to which 89-year old owner Mrs. Willie Mae Seaton cannot wait to return and start frying her famous chicken once again.

Nancie McDermott's website
Melissa Goodman aka "Gifted Gourmet"


#35 Rachel Perlow

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Posted 21 February 2006 - 06:22 AM

Click on this link and scroll down a bit to "Recovery Menu" and you can see a very nice piece on Willie Mae Seaton, the work going on at her place, and the seriously depressing scope of the damage to JUST ONE BUILDING among a couple of hundred thousand.

And as you are watching, the half million estimate is about 350k high, but it doesn't make much difference, as it's not there to spend, anyway. Hopefully, soon, we will have some good news on that front, as well.

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That link seems out of date, here's one based on a search: New Link

#36 Mayhaw Man

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Posted 28 February 2006 - 05:29 PM

Ben Yagoda (supremely nice guy and a very good writer) wrote a nice piece on his weekend in New Orleans. I was lucky enough to share breakfast with him at Savvy on Sunday morning and got a really refreshing breath of fresh air from the guy. Not everyone who comes down here ends up with such a positive attitude at the end of the stay.

Ben Yagoda on the Willie Mae Seaton Project
Brooks Hamaker, aka "Mayhaw Man"

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#37 Gifted Gourmet

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Posted 28 February 2006 - 07:28 PM

That was some incredible article! Brings me both smiles and tears at the same time ...

Pableaux Johnson, a local food writer and the author of Eating New Orleans: From French Quarter Dining to the Perfect Poboy (Countryman Press), greeted us and told us a little bit about the history and significance of Willie Mae's.
"It exemplifies those neighborhood restaurants that have been dependent on the walking-distance residents around them," he said. "They don't get a lot of traffic from the tourist crowds. If you go to find it, you've heard a rumor and want to seek it out. Those are the places that are more vulnerable than others - they rebound slower. They've always lived very close to the margin."


Melissa Goodman aka "Gifted Gourmet"


#38 ludja

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Posted 28 February 2006 - 07:57 PM

Thank you for continuing to give us updates on the project as well information regarding how to donate money to help things along.

In case the link in Mayhaw Man's previous post (#36) goes away, here is the information for how you can help the restoration of Willie Mae's restaurant.

Although unskilled volunteers are no longer needed, in April, the Southern Foodways Alliance plans to issue a call for skilled labor - including licensed plumbers and electricians - to do finishing work, painting and wallboarding at Willie Mae's Scotch House. For information, go to www.southernfoodways. com. Additionally, the organization is trying to raise about $135,000, primarily for supplies and materials. Checks, payable to the Willie Mae Seaton Gulf Coast Renaissance Fund, should be mailed to Mary Beth Lasseter, Southern Foodways Alliance, Box 1848, University, Miss. 38677. All money will go to the restaurant, with no administrative fees deducted.


"Under the dusty almond trees, ... stalls were set up which sold banana liquor, rolls, blood puddings, chopped fried meat, meat pies, sausage, yucca breads, crullers, buns, corn breads, puff pastes, longanizas, tripes, coconut nougats, rum toddies, along with all sorts of trifles, gewgaws, trinkets, and knickknacks, and cockfights and lottery tickets."

-- Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 1962 "Big Mama's Funeral"


#39 Mayhaw Man

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Posted 07 April 2006 - 08:58 AM

There is now an excellent video production that briefly documents the efforts being made to rebuild Willie Mae Seaton's restaurant.

This film, put together by The New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau, contains some great footage and comments from such luminaries as Lolis Elie, John Besh, Sandra Jaffe, John Edgerton, and John T Edge. It's really well done and I would reccomend a viewing for anyone who is not only interested in this project, but for anyone who cares at all about what is happening here and who is making it happen (hint: who is making it happen is US).

Thanks to all who participated in this project and to all of you who are looking for a bit of volunteer work, I recieved this from Mary Beth Lassetter in yesterday's email:

Good morning, Scotch House Volunteers!

We thought it's about time for an update.

Work is progressing on the Scotch House. Local volunteer John Robinson will
team with some visiting volunteers to reinstall the siding on the restaurant
this weekend. John Currence, of Oxford, purchased the materials in Memphis
and drove them to New Orleans last week. If anyone is interested in helping
replace the siding, e-mail sfamail@olemiss.edu. We can certainly use the
help. This will be a supervise-yourself-crew, as some volunteers prime and
paint and others make good use of a hammer.

If we have volunteers willing to work Easter weekend, we'll also be on site
to do some basic framing, replacing of floor joists, etc. Carpentry skills
are a plus, but strong backs that can take direction are also welcome.
Again, e-mail sfamail@olemiss.edu to volunteer.

You may be interested in a video just produced by the New Orleans Convention
and Visitors Bureau. This film will be used to raise awareness for the
project, and aid in fundraising. See it online:
For PC users: mms://65.56.1.67/stream3/cvb/williemae.wmv
For Mac users: http://65.56.1.66/vi.../williemae1.mov

We are continually grateful for everyone contributing to this effort. A
couple from New Mexico, who worked at the Scotch House on one of our first
weekends, hosted a benefit party that raised over $2000. Volunteers who
work as journalists, when not swinging hammers at the Scotch House, have
penned articles that spurred donations in excess of $3000. Restaurants in
Canada and Vermont are hosting fundraising dinners. And this is all in
addition to the many kind individuals who have offered personal donations.

To donate, make checks payable to the Gulf Coast Renaissance Fund and mail
them to:
Southern Foodways Alliance
Barnard Observatory
PO Box 1848
University, MS 38677
All contributions are tax deductible, and funds will be used to buy building
supplies and materials. No administrative fees will be deducted.

The work is moving along, and though rebuilding is a slow process, our hopes
are high that Ms. Seaton will soon be in her kitchen. Please pass the word
and share her story.

Mary Beth Lasseter
Southern Foodways Alliance
Center for the Study of Southern Culture
P.O. Box 1848 - Barnard Observatory
Corner, Grove Loop & Sorority Row
University, MS 38677
662.816.2055
662.915.5814 (fax)
sfamail@olemiss.edu
www.southernfoodways.com


As always, with just a quick phone call, you too could be involved in a little disaster cleanup!
Brooks Hamaker, aka "Mayhaw Man"

There's a train everyday, leaving either way...

#40 Mayhaw Man

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Posted 29 May 2006 - 08:26 AM

I spent a large part of the weekend working under the supervision of our fierce taskmaster, John Currence, who has been doing the job of site foreman for the last couple of months. The walls are going back up, and there is some paint (or at least primer) going up on the walls, and both sides are coming together nicely.

The work will now stall as we all wait, just like everyone else in this city, on the plumbers and electricians to ply their trades and then volunteer work will again commence. Hopefully, with any luck, sometime around Labor Day Willie Mae Seaton will be back in her home and each morning travel the ten feet to the kitchen at the Scotch House to begin the day's task of "serving the people"
Brooks Hamaker, aka "Mayhaw Man"

There's a train everyday, leaving either way...

#41 Mayhaw Man

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Posted 29 August 2006 - 01:42 PM

A bit of Scotch House news and a letter from John Currence, one of my personal heroes, a good friend, and someone who regularly tries to shoot me with a framing nailer (though he is, happily for me, a very bad shot).

The Gulf Coast Rennaisance Foundation has been working diligently to complete this project and move on to the next. Thanks to everyone who has helped in any way. It's been a year today since "the thing" and, sadly, many parts of New Orleans, though a bit drier (and I mean a bit-we are actually leaking more water out of pipes than people are being billed for), it's still largely not something that anyone would want to look at for very long. I know that even us, the people who live here, don't like looking at it so why would you?

Enough of that-we are moving forward. That's what counts.

Here's your update from Johnny Snacks (you'll have to ask Elvis Costello where that name came from-he's the one that made it up).

(reprinted here with permission from the Southern Foodways Alliance)

Sunday, August 28, 2006

By John Currence

From the reports of the brave few who took turns laying in the insulation this weekend: The attic of Willie Mae's gets up to around 110-120 degrees up there, so anyone who has anything they need to keep warm...

Yes, I said it... insulation... I realized on the way home from New Orleans last night that we had not done a terribly thorough job of keeping everyone in the loop about what was happening on the corner of North Tonti and St. Ann, much less have we thanked the countless souls who have given up their weekends, spare change, and hearts to the project. This first installment from the front line will hopefully begin to make up for those two shortcomings, though I am reluctant to thank individuals at the risk of insulting those who I will invariably fail to mention.

Spring:

The first five weekends of the Willie Mae project saw about two-thirds of the demolition completed. When we closed the doors at the end of that first push, hopes were dim as the reality we were facing a gigantic fundraising effort set in. Over the course of the spring and early summer a series of big weekends were organized. The rest of the interior demolition was completed, wiring and plumbing were removed, and by April the structure was little more than a very fragile shell. Remaining doors and windows were falling apart. The bottom four feet of the building were still only covered by the roof felt we had used to wrap the building and cover the wall studs. The original weather board had been removed and a couple of large sections of the exterior walls were exposed. The building was nothing but studs, 80% of its original siding, and a roof. We spent a significant amount of time during these first few months treading water waiting for a couple of groups promising boat loads of cash for Willie Mae. Like the rest of the city, we found that many funding avenues were dead ends and we worked almost exclusively using funds from individual donations.

Summer:

Starting Easter weekend (which I recognize is not technically Summer, but cut me a little slack... I'm nothing short of scrambled right now) the rebuilding began. An impressive shot of new blood from Birmingham and a couple of regular faces from Nashville descended on New Orleans with a smattering of others, and new wood started to hang. New weather board went up on the outside, inside framing was reinforced, ceiling joists went up on the house side of the building, and a fresh coat of paint went up on the new siding. The James Beard Foundation, after a healthy dose of lobbying, made a healthy donation of money raised in conjunction with the Beard Awards. We were back in the hunt. Several weeks later (Memorial Day Weekend) another group came to town and the rough work on the interior continued. The exterior wall in the kitchen area of the house was reframed and new windows were installed. The dividing wall between the house and restaurant was completed, and the ceiling structure was completed on the house side. On the Fourth of July we pushed our luck and called for volunteers on a vacation once again. The rough-in on the drain work had been laid, and fresh concrete poured throughout two-thirds of the restaurant side. The heavy part of the interior framing could begin. With the strong-backed crews from Birmingham and Nashville, and one ponytailed scalawag from the Lower Garden District, the bathrooms and kitchen on the restaurant side took shape and real forward progress was visible for the first time. In the time since, smaller groups have helped do some detail work with the framing and siding of the building, and the professionals have swept in. A mechanical group has installed the central air and heat and the electricians are about 90% finished with the wiring.

This past weekend the most heroic group of volunteers arrived ready to help. Thanks to a glowing piece in the Times Picayune by Brett Anderson, a group showed up on Saturday (a blisteringly hot Saturday... and I grew up in the Crescent City, so I know how hot they can be) to hang the donated insulation that the Egerton Clan trucked down two weeks ago. These guys (the Egertons and the group who showed up this weekend) all deserve to be bronzed for their efforts. As of Sunday afternoon, the exterior walls were all draped with fiberglass, and the attic floor was covered in an itchy pink carpet. (Side note: for those of you who have not been down, insulation is a novel concept for this particular building...there was not a lick of it in the walls heretofore.) The interior is completely finished forgive one short wall section, pending the plumbers' completion, and the outside of the building needs only a touch up here and there to replace worn siding.

Donations have continued to come in a number of different forms. A lumber company donated a load of plywood which we did not have a use for, and a friend who owns an Ace hardware swapped the ply for electrical supplies to help with the wiring costs. John Besh has remained at the ready, so we remain the most well fed work crew in the recovery effort, hands down. Through a tremendous network of friends who are handy with typewriters, we have gotten more than our share of ink and the checks have continued to come in, helping us limp along.

Willie Mae remains in good spirits. She could not be more grateful to everyone who has helped and, as always, wants nothing more than to get back in the kitchen and get back to work. She is still up the street with her friend Hazel, and she's never without a smile on her face. She looks forward to making the trip to Oxford in October for the symposium, and seeing everyone who makes it down.

Hopefully, on next report, drywall will be going up and a real time line for opening will be available.


Also, there is a big deal fundraiser in DC next week to raise money for the project. It will be held at the new Johnny's Half Shell on Capitol Hill (formerlyLaColline, in the bottom of the building that improbably holds both the Teamsters and Fox News-odd bedfellows if ever there were any).

Details will, of course, be appropriately listed in the events calender and I should have them there shortly. I hope that some of you DC folks can make it. As an added bonus, you can get freshly shucked oysters shucked by my very own hands (though I am sure that they will be some kind of namby pamby East Coast oysters as Ann doesn't bring in LA oysters until the Fall months-that's our Fall, not yours). One of my many talents is being an Ace Oyster Shucker-though I am schooled on the large and delicious Gulf Oysters and not the tiny and strange oysters that come from foreign and exotic lands like Maine and Oregon

Anyway, I hope to see you there. You'll be helping out a good cause and you can pretty much be guaranteed a great bunch of stuff to snack on.
Brooks Hamaker, aka "Mayhaw Man"

There's a train everyday, leaving either way...

#42 bavila

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Posted 30 August 2006 - 05:48 AM

Odd bed fellows and namby pambies of all sorts abound in the nation's capitol, Brooks.

Do keep us posted on the fundraiser.
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#43 Mayhaw Man

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Posted 16 November 2006 - 09:03 AM

If you happen to be in New Orleans Fri, Sat, or Sun we would really like to encourage you to come by and give us a hand as we get the final push done of WMSH and Willie Mae Seaton's residence. We need strong backs and weak minds as we move in the kitchen equipment, paint the place, and do what needs to be done to get Willie Mae back in her house.

It's been a long, very rewarding, very educational slog and everyone involved deserves a big round of applause. Willie Mae Seaton is a very happy woman right now. She's old and while it's been a bad year and a half for everyone, it has been particularly trying for our older citizens who, at least in many cases, were displaced from the places where the happily assumed that they would spend the rest of their lives. It's nice knowing that at least one of them is going to be back home where she belongs.

It's also nice knowing that, sometime next month, fried chicken, white beans, greens, and all of the rest will be ready once again on St Ann St.

Small steps. Very small, very satisfying steps. That's all we've got down here.

It's a long march...
Brooks Hamaker, aka "Mayhaw Man"

There's a train everyday, leaving either way...

#44 HungryC

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Posted 16 November 2006 - 03:25 PM

Brooks, what time do y'all plan to get started on Sat & Sun?

#45 Mayhaw Man

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Posted 17 November 2006 - 10:38 AM

Brooks, what time do y'all plan to get started on Sat & Sun?

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Nine o'clock or so. I can promise you a pretty swell lunch. The catering has been pretty amazing-Besh and Folse know how to serve a mean bag lunch, trust me. Even that pompous twit Alan Richman might enjoy it (of course, he would complain that there were signs of poor people who should really get busy cleaning things up as the atmosphere was ruining his constitution).
Brooks Hamaker, aka "Mayhaw Man"

There's a train everyday, leaving either way...

#46 Tom Secor

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Posted 03 January 2007 - 12:24 PM

Any updates? Plan to be in NOLA, end of January and sure would like to swing by if its open.....

#47 ham hock

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Posted 17 January 2007 - 02:29 PM

Mary Beth at SFA said that John Currance had located a crew with permits to install overhead vents, and that they would start work Monday. Also, that Southern Foodways Alliance would make a HUGE announcement when Mrs. Seaton opened. You could check the SFA website for an update.

#48 ham hock

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Posted 01 March 2007 - 11:00 AM

More Scotch House news on SFA website- www.southernfoodways.com/

#49 TAPrice

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Posted 01 March 2007 - 03:42 PM

For anyone too lazy to click on the link, here is the note from Chef John Currence. He's been leading the effort to bring Willie Mae back.

They're looking for volunteers this weekend. Call SFA if you can help.

Good news, fried chicken lovers!

I say this at the risk of sounding like I am crying wolf, but it appears that the end of the Scotch House project is truly not only in sight, but also within reach.

The last nine weeks have been nothing short of frustrating.  The Thanksgiving work weekend did much to ready Ms. Seaton’s apartment for her move home, but everything on the planet conspired against us and we were unable to connect the gas and electricity to make the place livable. There is now good news that I am extremely happy to report, however:  the electricity is on throughout the building.  The central air/heat units were delivered and installed, and gas will be hooked up shortly.  Work is completely finished on the house side of the building. 

On the restaurant side there is a little touch-up painting to be done. The bar top is to be laminated, plumbing fixtures need to be installed, and the drain lines have to be tied into the sewer mains out on the street.  After what seemed like a heavyweight title bout, we did manage to get the hood vent installed and a group contracted to install the fire suppression system.  Things are chugging along on the restaurant side.

Given the unexpected twists and turns of this project, I am hesitant to set an opening date right this second.  John T, Mary Beth and Lolis are hoping to get a firmer idea this and we will let everyone know as soon as we have reached a consensus.  Until then, please keep you fingers crossed.  We are very close and I could not be much more encouraged.

My very best, as always,

Johnny Snack

(a.k.a. John Currence)


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#50 Mayhaw Man

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Posted 02 March 2007 - 11:24 AM

It's been a long haul, but it's finally just about done-

The Keys to the Kitchen are ready, or will be after Sunday, ready to hand over. If you are going to be in the area, or just want to support a good cause, please plan on being there.

And just for the record, I have seen lots of selfless, thankless, and difficult volunteer work being done in this city in the last year and half but I have seen, personally, no one who has worked harder and with less interest in reward or self promotion than John Currence. The guy is truly inspiring. Other than an excuse to feed his little power tool fetish, John has not gotten one single thing out of this and expects nothing in return for his labors. He just does the job(s) that need to be done. If they held an election, I would campaign tirelessly to elect him for Recovery Czar. If you are ever in Oxford, MS I highly reccomend treating yourself to a meal at City Grocery-it's a testimony to what happens to guys that work hard and treat other folks the way that they would like to be treated. The food is great and the place is fun. Johnny Snack runs a great place.
Brooks Hamaker, aka "Mayhaw Man"

There's a train everyday, leaving either way...

#51 Mayhaw Man

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Posted 05 March 2007 - 08:57 AM

A 90 year old woman fried chicken yesterday afternoon for her friends and family in the kitchen of a modest house located in the Treme Neighborhood of New Orleans. While, on the surface, this may not seem so remarkable, this woman was Willie Mae Seaton and she hasn't been able to cook in her house since Aug. 29, 2005.

Film at 11. Longer narrative to follow.

And yes, it is damned fine chicken. In fact, given what it has taken to get a piece of it, I can safely say that it was the best yardbird that I have ever eaten.
Brooks Hamaker, aka "Mayhaw Man"

There's a train everyday, leaving either way...

#52 Varmint

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Posted 05 March 2007 - 11:27 AM

That is fantastic news. I'm disappointed I missed it by a week or so, but I couldn't be happer for Miss Willie Mae.
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#53 Mayhaw Man

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Posted 13 March 2007 - 06:24 AM

"That's my boy." says Willie Mae Seaton.

"She can be so pigheaded," says John Currence.

Sweetness and light at the corner of Tonti and St Ann. I love all of these people. Jim's done a nice job on this piece. He spend the whole weekend following everyone around and obviously paid more attention to detail than I thought that he was. Nice work.
Brooks Hamaker, aka "Mayhaw Man"

There's a train everyday, leaving either way...

#54 ham hock

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Posted 15 March 2007 - 08:50 AM

I stopped by Willie Mae's yesterday to see how things were going. Mrs Seaton was sitting in the dining room of her restaurant, visiting with her grandson. She seemed in good spirits, and was eager to re-open and get back to work. As always, she expressed her gratitude for all the people who helped rebuild her restaurant and home. But she was still fussing about the dropped ceiling not being put back in the dining room. My wife and I both told her how nice it looked restored to the original height, but she definitely did not agree.

#55 Mayhaw Man

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Posted 15 March 2007 - 02:48 PM

I stopped by Willie Mae's yesterday to see how things were going. Mrs Seaton was sitting in the dining room of her restaurant, visiting with her grandson. She seemed in good spirits, and was eager to re-open  and get back to work. As always, she expressed her gratitude for all the people who helped rebuild her restaurant and home. But she was still fussing about the dropped ceiling not being put back in the dining room. My wife and I both told her how nice it looked restored to the original height, but she definitely did not agree.

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Well, let's put it this way-I painted that ceiling and I love it. There had to be choices made based completely on financial issues-plumbing or a dropped ceiling-we thought that plumbing might be the way to go. Also, as opposed to her old place, there is a central unit in there and that should handle things better than those old ginormous window units that she used to have.

If anyone out there would like to donate 25K for a dropped ceiling and the rearrangement of all of the services, well, I'm sure that we can get it done in no time. Until then, well, I did a very nice job painting that ceiling.
Brooks Hamaker, aka "Mayhaw Man"

There's a train everyday, leaving either way...

#56 TAPrice

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Posted 27 March 2007 - 09:51 AM

If you're around New Orleans this weekend, Joe York will debut his documentary "Above the Line: Saving Willie Mae's Scotch House." The free showing takes place Sunday, April 1, at 9:30 p.m. at the Republic (828 S. Peters St.).

Hope to see you there.
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#57 TAPrice

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Posted 02 April 2007 - 06:42 AM

I saw the Joe York documentary last night, and it was just tremendous. If you get a chance to see it, don't miss it. Setting aside the subject, it was a wonderful as a piece of filmmaking. York is really adept at making still imagines feel dynamic. He also uses the visual footage of the city as a way to comment on the interview.

There was a hilarious jab at a lot of big name chefs. I can't really explain the sequence and do it justice, because it was all about context and editing.

Getting to the content, the movie showed just how difficult it is to bring back one small restaurant. It was really moving and honest about the project.

The room was packed with people, many of whom had been involved in rebuilding Willie Mae's. I saw a lot of people that I had worked with on the project. Honestly, even if Willie Mae fries her chicken today, sits down this evening and decides she's ready to retire, I think the project was still worth it. It made a lot of good people care about our city and visit our city when we needed them.

I should also mention that our own Brooks has a lot of screen time in this film. I think this officially makes Brooks a movie star.
Todd A. Price aka "TAPrice"


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#58 Mayhaw Man

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Posted 03 April 2007 - 11:22 AM

It was a big, big weekend here for all of us who have spent the last year and a half working to restore a 90 year old woman's restaurant and attached house. This place has been, in mine and many other's minds, a really nice metaphor for the struggle that is putting this place back in semi working order. With absolutely nothing but privately donated money and labor, a rotating group (eventually totalling over 200 people) of incredibly dedicated volunteers, and a hell of a lot of whip cracking, cajoling, and generally good natured prodding from our fearless leader, Johnny Snack(John Currence), we all managed to, unbelievably, put Mrs Seaton back in her house about three weeks ago and then to, yesterday, let her get back where she wants to be-behind her stove making "good food for the people."

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Willie Mae Seaton with a big can of baking powder (That's the only part of the recipe that you'll get from me. I know better than to tell secrets that might get me banned from the modest, but hallowed doors on St Ann and Tonti St in Treme.

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Mary Beth Lasseter, John Currence, and Mrs. Seaton's niece taking a break before the onslaught (and it was) of diners.

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Miracles, it would seem, do indeed happen- even in New Orleans.

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Getting things rolling on the line in Willie Mae's kitchen. That's her daughter in law cooking there in the foreground and a couple of visiting heavies from the East Coast helping to get things underway on the first day. Also, Joe York, soon to be world famous documentarian (and snappy dresser) and part of his extensive crew of assistants are in the background. It's good to have a personal film maker.

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John Fleer, formerly of Blackberry Farm and now of his house (and really happy about it) coming out with one of the first plates (that veal gravy was off the hook)

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Ann Cashion, standing in front of a bowl of Mrs. Seaton's secret batter mix, getting some chicken ready for the pan. She turned out to be a good student. Perhaps someday she will be ready to move out into a kitchen of her own.

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My hero, directing traffic. Between Mrs. Seaton, Ms. Cashion, Mr. Fleer, and Mr. Snack, that adds up to better than 10 Beard nominations and at least three medals (I'm not really sure, but it's plenty of them). I'm betting that's pretty close to the first time that's ever happened in a commercial kitchen open for business (happens at fundraisers all the time, though) Before all of this started, John had a full head of hair and a semi functioning liver. Now? Not so much.

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Willie Mae's niece and her son Slim (back from Houston, where he evacuated, to help out for a while) washing up. The dishes were flying around pretty fast back there all day.

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I'm sure that some of you geeks want plate pics but this is as good as it gets. I don't do that. Also, this would be pretty typical of the way that it looked all round yesterday-boarding house reach was the rule of the day. Those plates were coming back as clean as a whistle. What you see there is braised veal on one plate and fried chicken on the other. Yesterday's sides were butterbeans, redbeans or snap beans. No bread pudding and I, your ace reporter, can FINALLY explain why she only has it every once in a while....She only makes it with bread ends. That means that she only makes a pan when she has saved up enough bread ends to do it. When it's gone, it's gone. Now you might say, "Why doesn't she just buy some bread for that?" Well, you don't stay in business long if you aren't sharp and by way of her thinking, it is an expense she could ill afford when times were lean. As she puts it in Joe York's excellent documentary, Above the Line, Saving Willie Mae's Scotch House
, "I'm all bidness, baby. All bidness." And she is. Don't kid yourself. I saw a couple of signs yesterday (most welcome signs at that) that, though she might have lost a couple of steps, she's as sharp as a tack when it comes to that place and the way that she wants it run. Believe me, when she corrected one of those Pros from Dover they did what she said. Same for her son, Slim. He's kind of the fry guy and has been for a long time. Ann Cashion was frying chicken during the rush and she pulled a basket which she says (and still does and I'm not arguing with her-she's a great chef and crazy smart) was perfect, even now, but that Slim quietly took out of her hands and quietly put back in the grease (peanut oil for those of you keeping score at home) for another couple of minutes. Apparently this happened with someone else two years ago at the Beards. Willie Mae Seaton likes it on the dark side and who's to say she's wrong-the results speak for themselves. The stuff is crazy delicious.


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Even Barbie tried to get fly in for lunch.

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Pableaux conducts the post game breakdown with Mrs. Seaton. She's a tough nut to crack, but the charming Mr. Johnson has no trouble with her.

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Boys will be boys. When a man, even one as old as John sees wet concrete, they have to, they are compelled to, write their name in it. I'm sure even the Romans did it when they were building aqueducts. At least he spelled it right.

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After service- my friends Mary Beth Lasseter, Joey Lauren Adams, Bess Reed, Ann Cashion and John Fleer take a break on the sidewalk and discuss what bar it would be best to get it over with in. They settled on the Bon Ton and then off to Pableaux Johnson's for his weekly Bean Salon.

It was a great day. It was, in many ways, a great year and a half. Who knows what's going to happen? I surely don't. What I do know is that I have made some friends for life and we finished what we set out to do. The rest is up to someone else much bigger and alot more benevolent than I.

Also, just for the record-that chicken? It really is all of that and a bag of doughnuts. Really. I NEVER order fried chicken in restaurants but I have always eaten Willie Mae's. But, over the last year and a half, I and many of my friend have questioned whether it was legend or whether it was fact. I'm here to tell you that it is an absolute fact that this stuff is consistently the best chicken in the land. The best. Get there while you can and while she's still making it. Plan a trip-you won't be sorry.

Also, Leah Chase is opening up Dooky Chase on Holy Thursday, so you can do a twofer in the same block. That's a good day of eating, dear hearts. A very good day.

Thanks for watching. Tune in next time for a new episode of, "As The City Drowns." Check your local listings for showtimes in your area.

Best,

Brooks

Edited by Mayhaw Man, 03 April 2007 - 03:51 PM.

Brooks Hamaker, aka "Mayhaw Man"

There's a train everyday, leaving either way...

#59 TAPrice

TAPrice
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Posted 03 April 2007 - 11:51 AM

Thanks for all that, Brooks. I'm hoping to make it down Friday.

You mentioned Dooky Chase opening, and just for the record, it won't actually open to the public on Holy Thursday. It's an invite only event for the hundreds of volunteers who helped over there. She opens to the public on Monday.

Pretty amazing that those too places in the Treme are opening the same week. It took too damn long, but that's true of pretty much everything in our recovery.
Todd A. Price aka "TAPrice"


Homepage and writings; A Frolic of My Own (personal blog)

#60 TAPrice

TAPrice
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Posted 11 April 2007 - 06:15 PM

Pableaux Johnson posted plenty more photos of the opening day at Willie Mae's. I'm not going to say that Mr. Johnson's photos are better than those by Brooks posted above. I'll just say that Pableaux is a man with a fancy camera and a fill flash, and he knows how to use them.

Pableaux Johnson's photos of Willie Mae's
Todd A. Price aka "TAPrice"


Homepage and writings; A Frolic of My Own (personal blog)