mimi, meet mimi’s

by Tallahassee Table

William Lawson and his mother-in-law, Rebecca “Mimi” Johnson

Fans of Mimi’s Table Tallahassee probably know that Mimi is the nickname for Rebecca Johnson, mother-in-law to executive chef and co-owner William Lawson.

The cozy cafe opened in July, but Mimi had never had a chance to see the restaurant. She had planned to travel to Tallahassee from her Memphis home months ago but then Hurricane Michael ruined her plans.

But on March 26, she finally got the chance to visit the restaurant that bears her name.

It was a pleasure to meet this retired nurse, mother of six, grandmother of 10 and the type of person who always had a place at the table for a friend or soon-to-be friend. 

“This is the first time I’ve really seen the place,” said Mimi, as she surveyed the room, with its white tablecloths, retro posters and fresh flowers. “I’m really excited to be here.”

Mimi’s arrival was clearly celebratory. She was greeted by family, Mimi’s staff and a photographer.

“Her spirit and joy and love of family and friends, that’s what we try to adhere to in the restaurant,” said William Lawson.

His wife, Holly, who is a food service and hospitality professional herself, said that her mother always had a place at the dinner table for anyone who stopped by. 

“She’s a product of her upbringing in rural Kentucky where the dinner table was the center of life, and she brought that to us. It’s something that we’ve always felt was real important.”

Mimi left Kentucky when she went to nursing school in the 1940s. She met her husband, James, in Memphis, and that’s where they raised their family. “My husband passed away 33 years ago,” Mimi said.

A World War II veteran who became a family practitioner, James would call her Becky Bird, she said. Then the grandkids started calling her Mimibird. If you’re wondering why Mimi’s logo is a bird, that’s why.

– Tallahassee Democrat

But seeing the restaurant’s name and logo wasn’t the only memorable part of the experience of visiting Mimi’s, she said.

”My son-in-law is a pretty good cook,” she teased.

For dinner, Mimi had a heirloom tomato salad, butternut fried quail with a white bean cassoulet, arugula and cherry ginger glaze, grilled pork chop with collard greens, yukon mashed potatoes, wild mushroom cream sauce and chocolate souffle with fresh berries.

“I really enjoyed the food,” she said after the meal. “The pork chop and collard greens were delicious. I’m from the South so I know about collard greens.”

Photo Credit: Mark Wallheiser
William Lawson and his wife Holly, with his mother, Regena at right. Seated, from left: Natalie Carballo, Rebecca “Mimi” Johnson, Olivia Brevatt and Erin Wallace.

The event was a gathering of family, including William’s mother, Regena Lawson.

“My first cooking memory is watching my mom make chocolate chip cookies and cinnamon rolls,” said William. “And every summer, I’d go to Tupelo, where my grandmother lived and I would be in the kitchen with her. She made everything from scratch.”

Regena Lawson said she was “proud” that her son had realized his dream.

“He always wanted to open a restaurant,” she said.

Several “incredible women have made this dream (Mimi’s Table) possible,” noted William.

Aside from his wife, mother and mother-in-law, they include investor RoseMarie Young, designer Ellen Sprowls, cook Erin Wallace and managers Olivia Brevatt, Natalie Carballo and Samantha Thibodaux. 

“Without their support,” William said, “none of this would be possible,” 

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Gurye Smith March 28, 2019 - 3:42 pm

Wonderful article about a great success story. Having known the family for most of my life, every word of it is true (except Dr. Johnson was called J Don instead of James). I remember a cross-stitch saying that hung on Mrs. Johnson’s (Mimi) wall, “Cooking lasts, Kissin’ don’t.” William’s food has always been delicious. So glad Mimi finally got to visit!

tallahassee table April 8, 2019 - 1:44 pm

Thank you so much for your comment! I’m happy you liked the article!


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