Star Trek 

TV chef Nathalie Dupree to headline Simon Super Chefs Live! at Wolfchase.

She may be a professional chef, but former Food Network star Nathalie Dupree still makes mistakes — like the time she baked a large fish for a dinner party and then dropped it on the floor.

“We had to pick it up quickly and pile it on a plate. You know, the 30-second rule,” says Dupree. “It sure didn’t look pretty, but it tasted delicious.”

Dupree, who hosts PBS’ Comfortable Entertaining, will be showing off her skills at Wolfchase Galleria on Saturday, June 11th, as part of Simon Super Chefs Live!, a traveling-chef show that stops at malls across the country. The demonstration is free and will be set up in a central location in the mall.

In addition to the Dupree demo, Simon Super Chefs will feature local chefs, wine seminars, food and beverage sampling, and an autograph session with Dupree, who will sign her cookbooks. Her latest, Nathalie Dupree’s Comfortable Entertaining (Viking), will be for sale, but Dupree says she’ll be happy to sign her previous cookbooks that people bring from home.

At the end of the daylong event, a couple of audience members will be chosen to compete in a cook-off.

In her demonstration, Dupree will be teaching the crowd how to prepare oranges in a caramel sauce.

“I always try to demonstrate something that people wouldn’t do at home without learning it from someone else,” says Dupree, who’ll be taking questions throughout her demonstration.

Hopefully, the oranges won’t suffer the same fate as the fish. But if she does drop them on the floor, she probably won’t freak out. On her show Comfortable Entertaining, Dupree teaches her audience how to deal with such situations in a dinner-party atmosphere without stressing.

“You don’t have to be perfect,” says Dupree. “The people don’t come over for the food. They come over because they like you.”

Over the years, Dupree has hosted many shows on the Food Network and the Learning Channel. She’s also the author of 10 cookbooks, several of which deal with the “New Southern” cooking movement, which Dupree is credited with starting in the 1970s.

New Southern cooking is the blending of classic French cooking methods with traditional Southern ingredients. Dupree gives the example of preparing grits with whipping cream or yogurt rather than water. More complex dishes include a turnip-green-and-tomato-sauce soufflé roll and turkey scaloppine with mustard and marjoram.

Dupree attended the Cordon Bleu when she was in her 20s. Since she grew up in South Carolina, she says New Southern cooking was a natural marriage of cooking techniques.

Today, there are New Southern restaurants across the country, like Felicia Suzanne’s in downtown Memphis.

Dupree began cooking professionally when Julia Child was one of the few female chefs in the business. At the time she attended cooking school, it was still rare for a woman to run a professional kitchen.

“My mother told me ladies do not cook,” she recalls. “There were no women chefs back then, except women whose husbands ran restaurants or in boarding-house kitchens. They didn’t do fine dining.”

Dupree took an interest in the culinary arts after the cook at her student house fell ill and took a leave. Dupree stepped in to take her place and got her first taste of preparing meals for large groups.

Her first mass meal was tuna casserole. However, the dish took a turn for the worse when she failed to realize it wasn’t necessary to increase the amount of fat in the recipe when multiplying the ingredients for a large group. The casserole came out of the oven with a layer of fat on top. She threw in some more seasonings, mixed it all up, and proclaimed it “Tuna à la King.” Everyone loved it, and Dupree realized her calling.

After culinary school, Dupree served as master chef at three restaurants, one of which, Nathalie’s, was named after her. But these days, Dupree is taking it a little easier, taping her cooking show for PBS and touring with Simon Super Chefs.

When she hits Memphis, she won’t be setting up shop in some fancy hotel suite with a kitchenette, preparing gourmet meals for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Instead, she’s going on a quest for the best local barbecue.

“I don’t really go to restaurants for gourmet experiences when I travel,” says Dupree. “I like the local flavor.” n

Nathalie Dupree with Simon Super Chefs Live! at the Wolfchase Galleria, 11:30 a.m.-5 p.m., Saturday, June 11th

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