Tragic loss for the city of New Orleans today, with Todd Price reporting that Willie Mae Seaton, founder of the iconic Treme restaurant Willie Mae's Scotch House, has passed away at 99 years of age:
Ms. Seaton was born in a Crystal Springs, Miss., and moved to New Orleans during World War II so her husband could work at the Higgins Shipyard. She drove a taxi for five years, worked at a dry cleaners for several more and was a licensed beautician... In 1957, Ms. Seaton turned her beauty shop on the corner of St. Ann and North Tonti streets into a bar, where the house drink was a mix of Scotch and milk.
Seaton quickly became known for cooking at the neighborhood bar, but her fried chicken—made with a wet batter that to this day remain's a family secret—was what made her famous. Despite years of being a "neighborhood secret," Willie Mae's was named as an American Classic by the James Beard Foundation in 2005. Months later, Hurricane Katrina would destroy the restaurant (and Seaton's home), which was rebuilt and reopened in 2007 with the help of the Southern Foodways Alliance and chef John Currence. Since then, Willie Mae's has gained national recognition as a major New Orleans culinary destination known for its long line.
Today, the restaurant is run by Seaton's great-granddaughter Kerry Seaton-Stewart. In 2014, a second location Uptown was also opened. President Obama dined at the Treme icon just last month.