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‘FROM SCRATCH’: Famed author, cooking show host first made name for herself in Newton County
Nathalie Dupree
Nationally famous TV cooking show host Nathalie Dupree is credited as the originator of the ‘new Southern cooking movement’ after perfecting her technique in a restaurant in the Brick Store community of eastern Newton County in the early 1970s. (Special Photo | Nathalie Dupree)

SOCIAL CIRCLE, Ga. — Nathalie Dupree remembers the details of her Newton County experience seemingly like it was yesterday — even though it was half a century ago .

The nationally famous cookbook author and originator of the new Southern cooking movement perfected her technique in the Brick Store community of eastern Newton County where she opened and operated a restaurant in the early 1970s. 

Dupree spoke by phone from Raleigh, North Carolina, where she now lives with husband Jack Bass. She was planning a Christmas Day dinner just for the two of them featuring Manchester Farms quail from South Carolina.

“I haven’t decided how I’ll cook it yet, probably with pepper jelly,” she said.

She and “favorite former husband” David Dupree operated Nathalie’s restaurant across from The Hub, a grocery store which had been a major destination for passenger buses during World War II and still served as a major stop for the long-distance transit operations in the early 1970s. 

The couple purchased an old warehouse and office trailer along with 15 acres of land at the corner of U.S. Hwy. 278 and Georgia Hwy. 11 that they converted into an antique shop and restaurant in 1971. The office trailer was converted into a living space, she said.

Dupree also recalled living and working next door to The Hub drive-in movie theater and across Hwy. 11 from the Tri-County Cattle Co.

“We could watch the movies from our window,” she said, laughing.

She said she met David Dupree when she worked 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 an Atlanta banker who later became a famed historic home preservationist and restored about 15 properties in Social Circle.

Nathalie and David moved to London, England, where she graduated from Le Cordon Bleu cooking school. She then worked at a restaurant in Majorca, Spain, and the couple toured part of Europe with his parents before they moved back to the states. 

“We always wanted to come back home,” she said.

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

“So I ran the largest paper route in Covington, Georgia, to start the restaurant,” Nathalie said. “I threw the papers every morning with our German shepherd dog — earned a pretty good income.

“My brother and my husband ... built the (restaurant) cabinets and everything. They laid railroad ties at 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. 

Oby and Ann Brewer lived in the historic Mt. Pleasant Plantation home nearby, she said. 

Ann Brewer later became a fund-raiser for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation and helped originate the farm to table food movement in Georgia. Oby Brewer was a real estate agent and David Dupree was able to earn his real estate license because of him, Nathalie said.

Mt. Pleasant Village featured Nathalie’s homemade dishes on one side and antiques and such items as fresh flowers and plants from her father-in-law’s greenhouse on the other side, she recalled.

“We had these lovely geraniums that I kept there,” she said. “It was a family affair.”

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

“We made everything from scratch,” she said. “I certainly got a lot of complaints that the beans were not cooked enough.”

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

The restaurant, Nathalie’s, drew customers from as far away as Atlanta. Kate Almon and Grace Reeves assisted her in the kitchen, she said.

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

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

“I knew it wasn’t going to be a meat and three but I didn’t have the capacity to offer a lot of choice, but it didn’t occur to me that people wouldn’t like good food if they ate good food — and we could create a nice environment.”

She said she used a French cooking technique with southern U.S. ingredients in her dishes. 

“That became the new Southern cooking movement,” she said. “I realized how similar they were, but different.”

She was referring to a cooking style she is credited with starting — and that many restaurants use today. Her first TV cooking show was titled “New Southern Cooking with Nathalie Dupree.”

In 1975, one of her regular customers enjoyed her style of cooking enough that a business offer was made. 

“A customer at the restaurant was an executive with Rich’s (Department Store) and introduced me to the powers that be,” she said.

The offer was for Dupree to operate a new cooking school at Rich’s Department Store’s downtown Atlanta location.

She said she took the offer, split from her husband and moved to Atlanta to open the school, which ended up educating more than 10,000 students before its closing around 1984.

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

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

“My mother lived in Social Circle as well,” she said. 

Her former mother-in-law bought the Orr N Stanton-Studdard house for Nathalie and her current husband — an author and historian — on Hightower Trail in Social Circle “a couple houses down from the fire station.”

There, she filmed three series.  

“We loved it,” she recalled. “It was a big house and had a little cubby out of the back and my husband was able to write a couple 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 newspaper.

Nathalie Dupree filmed three of her cooking shows in the 1990s at her former home, the Orr N Stanton-Studdard-Dupree house, on Hightower Trail in Social Circle. (Special Photo | The Walton Tribune)