I met Nathalie Dupree — a multi-talented food professional — many decades ago in Ashville, North Carolina on a chicken
trip. That was when the then National Chicken Council hosted food editors on yearly press trips to teach us about the industry. Nathalie actually got married during one of those trips, as I and two other editors stood up for her as her bridesmaids on the beach in Jamaica.
Best known for her approachability and her understanding of Southern fare, Nathalie is a best-selling author with 14 cookbooks and more than 300 television shows. She’s a productive food professional having been the Founding Chairman of the Charleston Food and Wine Festival, founder of Southern Foodways, the Atlanta and Charleston Chapters of Les Dames d’ Escoffier, the American Institute of Wine and Food and past president of the International Association of Culinary Professionals.
In 2011, Nathalie was honored as the “Grande Dame”Les Dames d’ Escoffier award recipient. Les Dames d’ Escoffier is an invitational organization of women leaders in food, beverage and hospitality whose mission is education and philanthropy. She was also named the 2013 Woman of the Year from the French Master Chefs of America, won four James Beard Awards, and in 2015 was named to the James Beard Who’s Who in America.
She’s still going strong traveling extensively, lecturing and teaching. She was gracious to take the time to respond to Bite of the Best’s questions.
Which food product or gadget would you never give up? It’s a toss up between parmigiano reggiano and comté cheese. If I have cheese I’m happy. But how could I give up my wooden biscuit bowl? Or my favorite flour? This is a dilemma.
What do you like to serve when you entertain? I always provide enough protein that people won’t get drunk. I accommodate the vegetarians, so it’s always a big piece of meat – pork shoulder, ham, beef tenderloin, leg of lamb, and then asparagus, Brussels sprouts, potatoes..always a salad and always a bread. I have a mixed set of those blue China ware plates, garnered from yard sales, that I pull out for buffets. They look uptown but seem indestructible and are what used to be standard-sized so are manageable.
If you got to choose what you ate… describe your “last meal?” Oh dear. Another choice and I am so bad at choices. Now I know why I avoided this questionnaire. I suppose sausage and apples, my comfort food.
What food is your secret guilty pleasure? A toss up again between caramel ice cream and chocolate of any sort.
What is your go-to, neighborhood restaurant, and why? SNOB in Charleston. It’s walking distance from where we live, good modern southern, quiet, reliable and comfortable.
What is one food product most people don’t know about, but should? Pillsbury pie crusts in the long package. I keep them in the refrigerator for emergencies and pull them out to whip up anything from a quick onion tart to an apple tart.
Describe your worst kitchen disaster and how (if possible) you saved it: I have so many! I suppose when I made duck à l’orange in a furnished apartment, long before cooking school and it caught fire. We got it put out (remember, smother a fire, turn off the source of heat, don’t dash with water or flour) but we didn’t get anything to eat. Called in for pizza.
Who was your most influential mentor? Irena Chalmers insisted I write my first southern cookbook, published it and has always been supportive. Dudley Clendinen taught me how to write a newspaper column about food and relationships.
Describe an event that changed/redirected your career. White Lily Flour company came to me and offered to fund a public television show. I could hardly believe it and it took me six months to say yes.