THE ICON: Willie Mae Seaton
THE LEGACY: For years, Willie Mae Seaton’s little restaurant at St. Ann and Tonti streets was a neighborhood secret, and that was fine with her. It was by design, in fact. In 1999, when The Times-Picayune published a story about Willie Mae’s Scotch House, Seaton refused to let the newspaper print the address. Great fried chicken, however, is hard to keep secret for long. In mid-2005, the James Beard Foundation bestowed its America’s Classics Award upon her. In 2010, President Barack Obama showed up for lunch. A litany of media outlets, including the Food Network and the Travel Channel, have declared Willie Mae’s fried chicken the best in America. But the real testament to its sublimity — and to Willie Mae’s revered place in the local culinary landscape — is the line of people that forms every day outside of it, all waiting to sample a New Orleans classic.
THE ARTIST: Jessica Strahan
THE INSPIRATION: “This was basket-fried, deep-fried chicken, and it was as good as anything I’ve ever eaten. And it was that crust. It was that fusion of skin and crust, the moment which they became one. And when you bit into it, there was a burst of juice, there was a subtle heat. It was beautiful.” — Southern Foodways Alliance Director John T. Edge, on his first taste of fried chicken from Willie Mae’s Scotch House