“Virginia Willis is a proud daughter of the South, who, by way of butter beans, okra, biscuits and dumplings, honors her kith, her kin, her place.” —John T. Edge, Director, Southern Foodways Alliance
Rich in folklore and history, the cooking of the American South embodies all the glamour, grit and soul of Southern culture. Virginia Willis’ part in the old and complex story of Southern food began in her grandmother Meme’s country kitchen, with its walls made of heart-of-Georgia pine. It was there in the presence of this consummate Southern cook where Virginia first began to inherit her love of fresh, home-cooked food and unconditional hospitality, which she fine-tuned with classic French training.
Listen in as Virginia discusses the agrarian traditions in the South, revolving around corn, pork, and sugar, too—with a special nod to the notorious Southern sweet tooth. Virginia also dishes out some of the rich perspective she has captured in her book, Bon Appetit Y’all/Recipes and Stories from Three Generations of Southern Cooking.
Virginia Willis, a graduate of L’Academie de Cuisine and Ecole de Cuisine LaVarenne, honed her attention to detail as the Kitchen Director for Martha Stewart Living Television where she supervised the food segments for the Emmy-award winning show. Virginia also prepared private meals and events for Martha and her guests, including President Clinton and Julia Child. As Executive Producer for Epicurious on The Discovery Channel, she traveled the world taping stories about food. Virginia’s wide and varied food career started in Atlanta as an apprentice to Nathalie Dupree. She worked with Ms. Dupree on four PBS series and cookbooks. Virginia is an officer in Les Dames d’Escoffier and is a weekly contributor for the Atlanta Journal Constitution.
Recorded Saturday, September 13, 2008 at Chicago History Museum.