Our two main features this month are Top Female Achievers and Best New Restaurants. There was a time when a German transplant named Elizabeth Kettenring could have won both awards in the same year. The only problem, at least for the life of this magazine, is that the year would have been 1863. And while there were no doubt many other worthy female achievers around town that year, quite likely her restaurant might have been not just the best, but the only. The restaurant, named Dutrey’s, specialized in serving late morning “second” breakfasts mostly to the men who worked the early shift along the French Quarter docks. Tourism became more of a factor in the Quarter in 1884, the year of the Cotton Centennial World’s Fair, so visitors began to discover second breakfasts, too. By then the restaurant’s name had changed and become a part of the city’s culinary lore. After her first husband died, Kettenring married Hippolyte Begue and gave the restaurant his name. Elizabeth would eventually be enshrined in the history books as Madame Begue. Her restaurant’s location would be remembered as the site that now houses Tujague’s.
Had this magazine been around in 1863, young Mrs. Dutrey might have been on the cover holding a plate of sausage and hominy. I can almost envision her looking confident, ambitious and maybe even a tad sexy staring into the camera – wait a moment, I’m thinking about Susan Spicer. She has definitely been on our cover, at least a couple of times, including in the 1980s when she was this magazine’s very first chef of they year. Spicer’s world is filled with more opportunities that Madame Begue ever had, but there’s a common spirit of women excelling as chefs and entrepreneurs. Curiously, one of the popular menu items at many restaurants is second breakfasts, only now they’re referred to as “brunches.”
One hesitates, for fear of omission, to name other local women who followed the same course, although it would seem lacking not to mention the matriarchs at Commander’s Palace and the still effervescent Leah Chase.
We didn’t plan it that way, but it works out that our choice of the very best of the new restaurants is located in the French Quarter and is named after one of its co-founders – a woman.
Even as a name source, females are achieving.