Southern belle judges for the Chefs' Gala

By TERESA J. FARNEY Updated: February 7, 2013 at 12:00 am • Published: February 7, 2013

Nathalie Dupree is one of the more influential women in the worldwide culinary community.

And no wonder. She’s the author of 13 cookbooks, including two James Beard Award winners: “Nathalie Dupree’s Southern Memories” and “Nathalie Dupree’s Comfortable Entertaining.”

Dupree has hosted more than 300 television shows and specials on PBS, Food Network and The Learning Channel. In 2011, she received the Grande Dame award from Les Dames d’Escoffier International, an honor instituted in 1993 and bestowed every other year in recognition of extraordinary and unusual contributions to the fields of food, wine and arts of the table.

So the Colorado Springs Chorale was thrilled when Dupree agreed to be lead judge for the Chefs’ Gala on Feb. 24. While in town, she will hold several book signings for “Mastering the Art of Southern Cooking.”

The title of her latest cookbook resembles that of Julia Child’s famous “Mastering the Art of French Cooking.”

“I knew ‘southern cooking’ was going to be part of the title,” said the resident of Charleston, S.C. “Another part of it was my wish to pay tribute to Julia. Women in professional kitchens wouldn’t have a toehold without her influence in the culinary world.”

Dupree has enjoyed her fair share of influence since starting her culinary journey in 1959. Last month, she discussed a variety of subjects with The Gazette.

Question: Having written so many cookbooks, do you have a formula you use to get the job done?

Answer: I wish I did have a formula. This book took five years to finish. At first, it was going to be about techniques. But that ultimately didn’t fit well in the Southern lifestyle. It didn’t work well in our kind of food. We ended up setting up ways to look at things. For instance, there’s a whole chapter on caramelization that is always so popular in Southern recipes.

Q: You’ve been teaching cooking for 40 years. Were you always interested in cooking?

A: I got my first crack at cooking when the chef at my boarding school got sick. I ended up cooking for 18 people until he came back. I told my mother that I wanted to be a cook. She said, “Ladies don’t cook.” ... After a while, my mother gave in and said if I could find one woman who cooked professionally, she would let me go to cooking school. I couldn’t find a single one in 1959.

Q: Obviously, that didn’t stop you. Where did you go to culinary school?

A: I went to London’s Cordon Bleu and got an advanced certificate. I got my first job in a restaurant in Majorca, Spain.

Q: How did you get into teaching cooking?

A: In 1975, after I had been back in Georgia for some time, I founded Rich’s Cooking School (located in Rich’s Department Store in Atlanta). I worked there as a chef, instructor and director of the school for more than a decade. I taught more than 10,000 students.

Q: You talk about your “little chickens” — what do you mean?

A: That’s what I call my students and interns. It’s my brood of young cooks. Many of them have become chefs, writers, cooking school owners and TV personalities.

Q: Who are some of them?

A: Shirley Corriher has become an award-winning cookbook author and makes frequent TV appearances on (Alton Brown’s) “Good Eats” TV show. As does Carolyn O’Neal, who is the refrigerator lady on Alton’s show. Virginia Willis is a chef who has also written an award-winning cookbook.

Q: What’s next — another cookbook in the making?

A: No probably not a cookbook. I might do my memoir.

Lunch with Nathalie Dupree

What: Three-course meal featuring recipes from “Mastering the Art of Southern Cooking.” Dupree will demonstrate how to make biscuits as well as shrimp and grits before lunch.

When: Noon Feb. 23

Where: Café 36 in the Fine Arts Center, 30 W. Dale St.

Cost: $45 per person

Call: 477-4377

Book signings

Nathalie Dupree will sign “Mastering the Art of Southern Cooking.”

• 2 p.m. Feb. 23 at the Deco Lounge in the Fine Arts Center, 30 W. Dale St.

• 10 a.m. Feb. 24 at Cheyenne Gourmet at The Broadmoor, 1 Lake Ave.

Cost: Free. Book will be available for purchase.

Contact Teresa J. Farney at 636-0271, Twitter @tffoodie, Facebook Teresa Farney

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