Chef, author, television personality. The author or co-author of thirteen books, Nathalie Dupree initiated what has been called the “new Southern cooking movement” that swept across the United States. In fact, she has been labeled the “doyenne of Southern cooking.”
The daughter of Evelyn Cook and Walter G. Meyer, a career army officer, Dupree was born in New Jersey on December 23, 1939. When she was a young child, her father was transferred to Alexandria, Virginia, where she spent the first through twelfth grade. After her parents divorced, Dupree joined her father in Texas for her freshman year of college. At nineteen, she decided she wanted to cook for a living. Her mother suggested that, before she embarked on such a venture, Dupree would be wise to first find a “lady” who made a living as a cook. Dupree soon realized that she had few, if any, female role models in the cooking world.
Undaunted, Dupree moved to London, England, with her first husband, David Dupree, and attended the Cordon Bleu cooking school, the only American in her advanced certificate class. While attending Cordon Bleu, she met Julia Child, who suggested that Dupree consider a career in teaching, advice that would ultimately set a trajectory for Dupree’s future. She was chef at a restaurant in Majorca, Spain, before moving to Social Circle, Georgia, in the early 1970s. Dupree opened Nathalie’s, a restaurant featuring fresh regional ingredients, inside the couple’s antique store just outside of town. She credits Nathalie’s as the “beginning of new Southern cooking.”
In 1975 Dupree founded a cooking school at Rich’s Department Store in Atlanta that attracted a variety of guests and students, including chef Paul Prudhomme, author Pat Conroy, and food writer Shirley Corriher. In the mid-1980s Dupree was a founding member and served as two-term president of what would become the International Association of Culinary Professionals, an organization that sets accrediting standards for cooking schools in the United States.
In 1986 Dupree was contacted by White Lily Flour about hosting a cooking show that focused primarily on the cuisine of the American South. New Southern Cooking with Nathalie Dupree led to two more television series, and Dupree soon became the first woman since Julia Child to host more than one hundred televised cooking broadcasts. Ultimately, Dupree would be responsible for more than three hundred half-hour shows for PBS, the Learning Channel, and the Food Network. Dupree’s on-air personality combined technical know-how with a charming grace that often resulted in comfortably controlled kitchen chaos.
Dupree is the sole author of ten books and co-author of three more—one with Marion Sullivan and two with her friend and producer, Cynthia Graubart. Not surprisingly, the books consider southern culture, food, and entertaining. Similar to her television shows, Dupree’s published works display an unmistakable southern voice, a style that lilts effortlessly from simple breakfast fare through ladies’ luncheons and afternoon pick-ups to traditional favorites and formal dinner parties. Dupree’s writing seems so at ease, in fact, that one might overlook each work’s meticulous research and organization. Two of her books, Nathalie Dupree’s Southern Memories: Recipes and Reminiscences (1993) and Nathalie Dupree’s Comfortable Entertaining: At Home with Ease and Grace (1998), earned James Beard Awards, among the highest honors in the field. In 2004 the Southern Foodways Alliance awarded her the Jack Daniels Lifetime Achievement Award.
In the fall of 2012, Dupree and Graubart released Mastering the Art of Southern Cooking, whose title is a nod to Mastering the Art of French Cooking by her longtime friend Julia Child. The book is both an introduction to southern cooking and an exploration of southern foodways. At 720 pages and with over 200 sources, Mastering the Art of Southern Cooking has been called “the most exhaustive and well researched volume on Southern cooking ever published” and “a candidate to replace Mrs. H. R. Dull’s classic 1928 cookbook Southern Cooking.”
Dupree’s other books include New Southern Cooking (1986), Nathalie Dupree’s Matters of Taste (1990), Nathalie Dupree Cooks for Family and Friends (1991), Nathalie Dupree Cooks Everyday Meals from a Well-Stocked Pantry (1995), Nathalie Dupree Cooks Quick Meals for Busy Days (1996), Nathalie Dupree Cooks Great Meals for Busy Days (2001), Nathalie Dupree’s Shrimp & Grits Cookbook (2006, with Marion Sullivan), and Southern Biscuits (2011, with Cynthia Graubart). She writes a monthly column for the Charleston Post and Courier and Charleston Magazine and has been featured in Redbook, Good Housekeeping, Bon Appetit, the New York Times, the Washington Post, and other publications.
An excellent storyteller, Dupree relies on narrative to communicate the ideas and culture that lie behind the food. At the heart of her work as both television host and author is a desire to teach people by making food accessible. Dupree avoids any pretense of perfection, preferring instead to help people learn by participating in the process, mistakes and all.
In 2010 Dupree ran a write-in campaign for the United States Senate against incumbent Jim DeMint in order to “expose the utter failure of Jim DeMint to act on behalf of the needs of South Carolina,” focusing specifically on DeMint’s refusal to support federal funding for the port of Charleston.
Dupree married South Carolina author and historian Jack Bass in 1994; the couple lives in Charleston, South Carolina.
Conroy, Pat. “Foreword.” Mastering the Art of Southern Cooking. Layton, Utah: Gibbs Smith, 2012.
Dupree, Nathalie. “Q & A with Nathalie Dupree and Cynthia Graubart, Authors of Mastering the Art of Southern Cooking.” Charleston Post and Courier, November 7, 2012.
Hagedorn, David. “Nathalie Dupree, Keeping It Juicy.” Washington Post, March 26, 2008.