The One and Only Nathalie Dupree

The doyenne of Southern cooking reflects on helping to shape both the region’s cuisine and those who make it

Photo: Sully Sullivan

Dupree with the tools of the biscuit-making trade.

Age: 79
Home Base: Charleston, South Carolina
Known for: Her work as a pioneering cooking teacher, television personality, and author of fifteen cookbooks, including her latest, Nathalie Dupree’s Favorite Stories & Recipes, released this fall.

First cooking job: “I had a small business in London called Just Desserts. For my very first delivery, I had cleaned lemon rind from the grater with a pastry brush, and some bristles fell into the lemon soufflé. So my first customer complained about the hair.”

How times have changed: “In 1959, when I first wanted to be a cook, you couldn’t find one lady cooking in a restaurant. [French chef] Paul Bocuse famously said, ‘I’d rather have them in my bed than in my kitchen.’ So, let’s face it, we weren’t particularly welcome.”

Perceptions, too:  “When I started, the professional cooking world did not acknowledge Southern cooking or understand there was any technique involved in it.”

On transitioning from chef to teacher: “Some of the diners at my restaurant in Social Circle [Georgia] asked me to teach cooking classes, so I practiced on folks. I found that I loved it. I just love seeing the light go on.”

A distinguished visitor: “When Julia Child came to Rich’s Cooking School in Atlanta [which Dupree opened in 1975], she wanted regional Junior League cookbooks. She understood the food in those books was valuable. Smart chefs want to eat local food.”

His and hers: “The women’s movement had just started before I moved to London. I would come home from consciousness meetings but had to ask my husband to open the ketchup. I find it’s best if the roles are intertwined.”

Debuting in 1985 with New Southern Cooking, her first of three hundred episodes: “White Lily said they wanted to fund a show on PBS. I found a young female producer, Cynthia Stevens Graubart, and off we went.”

How benefits of supporting other women are like cooking pork chops: “If you put one pork chop in a pan and turn the heat on high, the pork chop will burn. If you put two or more pork chops in a pan and turn the heat on high, they will feed off the fat of one another.”

On her legacy: “I never thought about [it]. I am happy with my place in the world.”