Nathalie Dupree Interview
(One of America's hottest cooking sensations)

Nathalie Dupree is one of America's hottest cooking sensations. She's hosted more than 300 half hour cooking shows for PBS, The Learning Channel and the TV Food Network.

She is a best selling cookbook author with more than half a million hard book copies of her books in print including one book in its thirteenth printing!

Nathalie is one of the few cooking celebrities who has appeared on all three network television morning programs, The Today Show, Good Morning America and CBS This Morning as well as CNN. She's frequently solicited by television, radio and newspaper outlets from across the United States as an authority on food and cooking.

"Home Cooking" her daily cooking and entertainment tips, is syndicated nationally on more than 800 radio stations.

In 1975, she founded the South's prestigious Rich's Cooking School where she served as chef, teacher and director for nearly a decade. During that time Nathalie taught more than 10,000 students in demonstrations and participation.

Nathalie served two years as president of the International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP) which has more than 1,000.members in 14 countries. Julia Child has called her "an icon" of the IACP.

Nathalie Dupree took time out of her busy schedule to chat with us.

Q. Nathalie, with all of your education, experience and travel, is it still possible that by the end of a day, you'll have learned something about cooking you didn't already know?
A. Oh my gosh, yes. I learn something every day. All the time. I think it's just infinite, and particularly because there are so many more products that are in play, than there were before. There's always something new to learn. I find it very exciting.

Q. Your mother once told you, "Ladies don't cook" or "Cooks aren't ladies". What did she mean by that?
A. Well, when I was first thinking about getting a job cooking or studying cooking she said, 'Oh, ladies don't cook'. Meaning that they just didn't work in restaurants. She didn't want me to pursue it as a career because she had worked hard to get me educated and didn't feel it would be fulfilling, but also she didn't want me to work with men at night. That's what ladies didn't do, work with men at night.

Q. What did she want you to do?
A. Well, you know, she didn't want me to be a secretary. She had been a secretary but she knew that that was a hard life. That was the only thing she asked me to do or told me not to do. So I think she just wanted me to have something where I could support myself and that had some serenity to it. I think she didn't want me to have all this pressure either. (Laughs).

Q. Is there a lot a pressure with the position you now find yourself in?
A. Not necessarily very often. But, when I'm taping there's a pressure. Fundraising is a pressure.

Q. When did you know that you could cook?
A. I always liked to cook.

Q. All right, when did you know you could make a living as a cook?
A. Oh, after I graduated from the Cordon Bleu.

Q. Why did you choose that school over say the Culinary Institute?
A. Well, there was no Culinary Institute, first of all. The Cordon Bleu was the only thing around. There was a cooking program I think at Cornell. But, there was no place to study it. In fact when I started the cooking school at Rich's, there was no CIA (Culinary Institute of America).

Q. Do you really learn how to cook at a school like that?
A. Oh yes. In fact I think in many ways it's better than the Culinary Institute because it's all hands on and you get more individual training and the classes are smaller and you get to do more cooking. You cook everyday.

Q. You studied under Chef Paul Prudhomme as well as chefs from France and Italy. Let's put you on the spot here, which country has the better chefs?
A. Oh God, I couldn't begin to say. In fact, I'm just writing an article on that myself. I couldn't begin to say which food I like better.

Q. How did you survive your experience as a cook in Marjorca, Spain? You said you knew nothing about preparing things ahead of time. The kitchen was hot. The windows had no screens. And, you got quite a few bee stings. How'd you get through that?
A- The way every chef does, you just get tough fast. Every chef has something that's hard. Working on the line because it's too hot. Dealing with temperamental people in the kitchen. There's always something. Chefs just have to be tough. And, I loved what I was doing then and now. That helps too. But, it's not for everyone.

Q. You once had a job cooking for 18 people, for several weeks, in college. You had never done anything like that before had you?
A. No. The cook got sick and I just took over for her. Learned everything the hard way.

Q. How long did it take before you felt like you knew what you were doing?
A. Well, I didn't feel I knew what I was doing, but I had two bad days to start, where I tried to multiply ingredients by five and I stopped doing that and multiplied them by an even number. But, I also stopped multiplying recipes so religiously, and that made it easier. But, the first two days were really tough. (Laughs). I did a tuna fish casserole and multiplied it by five and it sort of came out with a layer of grease and a layer of milk, and then a globby layer of flour, and then the tuna fish underneath it. I just stirred it altogether and made some toast and called it tuna fish a la king.

Q. Did you ever seek out the advice of someone who had been in a similar position?
A. I don't think it even occurred to me to look for somebody that could do that. I don't think there was anybody within my entire knowledge who had ever worked in a restaurant or who had ever cooked for a crowd. I don't think there was anyone I had any access to that could've given my any advice. I would've had to figure out a stranger that would be accessible.

Q. That makes your story all the more remarkable doesn't it?
A. Well, I've learned everything the hard way. But, I was fortunate at The Cordon Bleu, in having good teachers.

Q. Before you started cooking you had a job as a secretary...
A. Yes, I had a lot of different jobs and I wasn't very good at any of them.

Q. And you were close to 30 before...
A. I took a cooking lesson. Right.

Q. What if you hadn't gotten into cooking, could you have stuck it out as a secretary?
A. I don't know. By then, I was married when I first started taking lessons at The Cordon Bleu so I might've settled into a routine in suburbia somewhere. But, you know, I never have thought about what if this had never happened. This is what I was meant to do and I've just done it step by step. It's been a real blessing. I've never speculated about what if I'd never done this.

Q. When you wanted to start your own restaurant, the bank would only agree to loan you $1,000.
A. Right.

Q. Was that because you had no credit line or ...
A. Well, we were starting an antique shop in a restaurant, and all the credit line was going towards the purchase of the furniture. But, more than that, the bank didn't want to put any money into anything they thought was a risky proposition. It's very hard to get money loaned to you from a bank, for a restaurant. They really like to know that you have enough to begin with.

Q. Banks feel restaurants are risky?
A. Yeah. And they are risky, because many people who start restaurants don't have any sense of what they're going into. They think because they've eaten or entertained that they can start a restaurant. It's very interesting. I have some friends who are not food people that just came to me recently and said they were gonna start a restaurant and they want to franchise it. They've got all the ideas and all the plans, and they've got this and they've got that. But when you ask them what food they're going to serve, they don't know.

Q. You had to take a paper route to get the rest of the money for your restaurant?
A. Right.

Q. So mornings would find you delivering the paper, and evenings you would be in the restaurant?
A. Well no, because I had to earn the money first. At that point we were just cleaning the restaurant. We did all the work to build it ourselves. We were cleaning the restaurant and building it, and scrubbing it and sweeping it. It was an old warehouse. In building the rooms we had to gut it completely. My husband and brother had to haul wood in to put on the tops and sides, and railroad ties for the front. So, we were busy with construction, for 3 or 4 months while I ran the paper route.

Q. How did you reach the point you're at now, with the cookbooks, and the T.V. and radio shows?
A. You know, I've just been so fortunate. Everything has come to me, step by step, and I really haven't pushed for a lot of it. It's been just wonderful. I guess if you're doing the right thing, then each step opens up a little bit for you, just like sewing a seam. It's just been step by step. I've been very fortunate, but I've loved what I've been doing too.

Q. And that makes all the difference in the world, doesn't it?
A. Oh, it does, yeah.

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