From scratch: a famous author, culinary presenter who first made her name in Newton

Social Circle, Ga. Natalie Dupree remembers the details of her Newton County experience as it was yesterday – even though it was half a century ago.

The nationally acclaimed cookbook author and creator of the new Southern cooking movement perfected her style in the Brick Store community in eastern Newton County where she opened and ran a restaurant in the early 1970s.

Dupree spoke on the phone from Raleigh, North Carolina, where she now lives with her husband, Jack Bass. She was planning Christmas dinner just for the two of them featuring South Carolina’s Samman Manchester Farms.

“I haven’t decided yet how I’m going to cook it, maybe with chili,” she said.

She and “favourite ex-husband” David Dupree operated Nathalie’s across from The Hub, a grocery store that was a major passenger bus destination during World War II and is still a major stop for long-distance transportation in the early 1970s.

The couple purchased an old warehouse and office trailer along with 15 acres of land on the corner of US Hwy. 278 and Georgia Hue. 11 that was converted into an antiques store and restaurant in 1971. The office trailer was converted into a living space, she said.

Dupree also remembered living and working next door to The Hub and via Hwy. #11 from Tri-County Cattle Co.

“We could have watched the movies from our window,” she said with a laugh.

She said she met David Dupre when she was working an office job in New York City. David worked in the corporate world in New York after growing up in Atlanta and Social Circle.

His stepmother, Celeste Sigman Dupree, was a banker in Atlanta who later became one of the most famous advocates of home preservation and restored about 15 properties in the social circle.

Natalie and David moved to London, England, where she graduated from Le Cordon Bleu cooking school. She then worked in a restaurant in Mallorca, Spain, and the couple toured part of Europe with his parents before returning to the United States.

“We always wanted to go home,” she said.

The couple used a $5,000 loan based on the value of their antiques to convert warehouse space. However, the loan could not be used to build her restaurant because “restaurants were notorious for failure,” she said.

“So I ran the biggest paper trail in Covington, Georgia, to start the restaurant,” Natalie said. “I was laying papers every morning with our German Shepherd dog – I made a good income.

“My brother and my husband… they built the (restaurant) lockers and everything. They put the railroad ties to the front of the building and made it look very charming.

“We painted it blue, and at first, we called it Mt. Pleasant Village,” she said.

She said Obie and Ann Brewer lived in the nearby historic Mount Pleasant Plantation home.

Ann Brewer later became a fundraiser for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation and helped create the farm-to-table food movement in Georgia. Natalie said Obi Brewer was a real estate agent and David Dupree was able to get his real estate license because of him.

Mount Pleasant Village Natalie’s homemade dishes on one side and antiques and things like fresh flowers and plants from her father-in-law’s greenhouse on the other, she remembers.

“We had a beautiful geranium that I kept there,” she said. In the lawyer’s house.

They later moved to their home on Monticello Street in Covington but continued to operate the restaurant at The Hub.

“We made everything from scratch,” she said. “I’ve definitely had a lot of complaints that the beans weren’t cooked enough.”

“The zucchini was a new vegetable,” she said. “It was still the era of yellow squash.”

Nathalie’s has attracted customers from as far away as Atlanta. She said Kate Almon and Grace Reeves helped her in the kitchen.

“We worked in the cold of the morning. There was a small air conditioner in the kitchen and a small air conditioner in the dining room.”

She said her in-laws encouraged her to introduce her cooking style in the early 1970s in rural Georgia because “I didn’t think it was foreign.”

“I knew it wasn’t going to be meat and three, but I didn’t have the ability to make a lot of choices, but it never occurred to me that people wouldn’t like good food if they had good food – and we could create a nice environment.”

She said she used French cooking style with Southern ingredients in her dishes.

“This has become the new Southern culinary movement,” she said. “I realize how similar they are, but they are different.”

She was referring to the cooking style that is credited with its inception – and which many restaurants use today. Her first TV cooking show was The New Southern Cooking with Natalie Dupre.

In 1975, one of her regular clients enjoyed her culinary style enough to make a commercial show.

“One of the customers at the restaurant was an executive at Rich’s[a department store]and he introduced me to the powers that be,” she said.

The offer was for Dupree to run a new cooking school on the site of Rich’s store in downtown Atlanta.

She said she accepted the offer, separated from her husband and moved to Atlanta to open the school, which she ended up teaching more than 10,000 students before it closed around 1984.

She went on to author or author 13 books. Her first sponsored TV show White Lily Flour in 1986 led to nine TV cooking series on PBS, cable channels TLC, and The Food Network.

Dupree also has fond memories of living on the Hightower Trail in Social Circle in the mid-1990s.

“My mom lived in the Social Circle too,” she said.

Her ex-mother-in-law bought the Orr N Stanton-Studdard home for Natalie and her current husband — an author and historian — on Hightower Trail in Social Circle “two homes below the fire station.”

There, she filmed three serials.

“We loved it,” she recalls. “It was a big house with a little room in the back and my husband was able to write two books there.”

They later moved to Charleston, South Carolina, in the late 1990s where she wrote a regular column for the Charleston Post and Courier.

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