Emeril and Paula’s Love Child Discovered in Helena, AL

By: qwerty53

Nov 30 2008

Category: Emeril, Paula Dean, Uncategorized

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Focal Length:31mm
Shutter:1/0 sec
Camera:NIKON D70

“If Emeril LaGasse and Paula Dean had a love child, that would be me!” laughs Etricia Williams. “My cooking style is ‘southern butter’ with an overlay of Creole, which is the influence of my Natchez childhood roots.”

Etricia, who will soon be opening 122 Tree Lane—her restaurant at 776 Second Avenue in Old Town Helena, comes naturally to her love and appreciation of food. “It started with the Easy Bake Oven that I received when I was four and the birthday cake I baked for my mom. When I saw the proud look on her face, I knew I wanted to be able to make other people feel that good!”

That is the premise behind Tree Lane, where she has created an inviting space that is warmly welcoming and a menu offering familiar dishes—sandwiches and salads, soups, quiche and pasta with her own individual ‘tweak.’ Her Calypso Chicken Salad is a mix of fresh greens, jerk style chicken, strawberries, mandarin oranges and fresh pineapple topped with a Cherry Rum Vinaigrette.

Growing up with her grandmother, Sadie Lee Hunter Williams, mother of six and grandmother of thirteen, Etricia remembers cooking and shopping as the best way to spend one-on-one time with her. “She was the person whose door was always open to anyone in the community for a meal; her sons came nightly, even after they married and on Sundays, after church, all the generations came together for a huge meal.”

While attending the University of Montevallo, Etricia further honed her interest while working at the Blue House Café, once an Alabaster landmark. There she prodded the young and talented chef, Mark Berry, for answers to all her questions. “Mark introduced me to a genre of food beyond grits!” she grins. “He taught me what polenta and béchamel sauce and ratatouille are and inspired me to think more creatively.”

“One afternoon, one of our regulars brought in JFK Jr., who was visiting Birmingham; that’s the kind of reputation Blue House Café grew to have and that’s the kind of aspirations I have for my own place.”

Etricia also spent some ten years being mentored by Joe Starost, then a manager for Outback Steaks. “From Joe I learned about the business side of the industry; he also made it a point to know his guests and ensure they received superior service.”

From the influence of pastry chef and sugar artist, Susan Notter at Culinard, Etricia learned to that to “realize your own potential, you have to surround yourself with people who believe in you.”

Around the spreading cherry-blossom tree on the back wall at 122 Tree Lane, Etricia (‘Tree’ to her friends) looks forward to adding a favorite or inspirational quote from her customers. “I cook because that is what I love to do—it’s a part of me.”

Initially, daily lunch will be offered from 10-3 pm, plus corporate catered events and lunches, as well as special holiday meals for carry-out. Over ten pastries and desserts, Etricia’s speciality, including her ‘Hummingbird Cake’ will be available whole or by the slice.

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