Screened Wednesday, October 15, 2008
In 2005, Willie Mae Seaton won a James Beard Award, the culinary equivalent of the Oscar, but her soul food restaurant still remained unknown to most New Orleanians.
Three weeks after Katrina hit, a New Orleans police woman found Willie Mae, then 89 years old, sitting alone on the sidewalk outside her ruined restaurant. She had sneaked away from her family in Houston and flown herself back home to reopen her place.
This is the story of Willie Mae and a determined group of volunteers who worked long and hard to get her cooking again. The rebuilding effort was led by John Currence, a native New Orleanian who is chef of his own restaurant in Oxford, Mississippi (himself a nominee for a James Beard award). Currence commuted for months, working as Willie Mae’s construction chief during the week, and running his own kitchen on weekends. This is an inspiring story of tenacity and generosity, set against a backdrop of devastated New Orleans.