Photo by Regina Charboneau
The first time I left Natchez, Mississippi (the Biscuit Capital of the World) to venture out on my own, I quickly found out I had also left the center of the universe. In Alaska, where I went to earn money to go to cooking school in Paris (another story), there would be the random connection of a friend of a friend or the meeting of a friend of my parents.
In Paris there was the connection of a family to my family who I ended up living with while attending LaVarenne. In San Francisco, where I opened my first restaurant, Regina's at the Regis, I was always amazed at how many people that came into my restaurant that were from Natchez, had been to Natchez, or wanted to go to Natchez to visit the historic homes during Spring pilgrimage.
The connection to Natchez always begins with people, but then comes my true love: food and specifically Southern food.
Now that I am back living in Natchez my theory has become even more apparent. The most current example:
My friend Peggy Pierrepont, who left New York to reside in Natchez, has been telling me for eight years that I needed to meet her friend Corby Kummer. In May of this year, I was guest Chef at the Monterey Bay Aquarium for their annual Cooking for Solutions. That all came about when a San Francisco friend Pastry Chef Jim Dodge made a quick trip to Natchez to visit me. Once I arrived in Monterey...there was once again another Natchez connection. One of the guest speakers was Corby. We met we talked a lot about Peggy and a bit about food and of course Natchez.
Fast forward to July: I was in New York and ducked into our neighborhood coffee shop to grab a coffee to drink on the way to have coffee with a friend at O'Neal's Cafe in Central Park. Someone whisked past me who I quickly recognized as Corby. He joined my son Martin and me in our walk through Central Park and the idea of me writing about Southern food for his blog came about.
That is the way things work when you are from Natchez: No matter where you go there is a connection to my center of the universe. It brings me new friends and new opportunities. It can be disputed by people in New York or San Francisco that Natchez is the center of the universe, but it is my center.
The connection to Natchez always begins with people, but then comes my true love: food and specifically Southern food. Natchez is most definitely the Deep South when it comes to hospitality, and when it comes to food it is a blend of the Deep South and a touch of Louisiana. Although Natchez is in Mississippi, Louisiana is directly across the bridge and much like New Orleans there is a blend of French, Spanish, African, and a bit of American Indian in our cuisine.
When my friends visit me in Natchez or friends of friends visit I always want them to have a real taste of Natchez. To me the perfect Southern meal is served as a buffet. Not only can you serve many dishes for multiple choices to fit everyone's taste, but I always entertain where I can join my guests and not be tied to the kitchen. When I cook, I cook plenty...leftovers never go to waste. If I don't send my guests home with "to go" containers, I have an impromptu dinner party the next day.