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Elaine Carter’s aunt brought her to work in the kitchen at Middendorf’s Restaurant when Elaine was around fifteen years old. That was nearly two decades prior to this interview, which gives Elaine the most institutional knowledge of anyone currently employed at the restaurant.
Elaine has seen Middendorf’s through two ownership shifts—Helen Smith, Suzie Lamonte’s mother, was at the helm when she started. Women have dominated the kitchen during her entire tenure there. Everyone associated with the restaurant interviewed for this project attested to Elaine’s talent at frying catfish, which has been her duty since the beginning. Until recently, she did it without the aid of air conditioning.
While Elaine quit school to work at Middendorf’s, she earned her GED several years later. She has never eaten at Middendorf’s as a customer. When she’s not working, Elaine’s passion is tending to her home garden, spending time with her six children and five grandchildren, and eating salads.