20 questions and a corresponding number of answers (the finale)

Posted 7/17/20

This week’s talk with Chef Virginia Willis marks the end of the pandemic conversation series with many of my favorite, most respected, role model chefs.

But just like the virus itself, there …

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20 questions and a corresponding number of answers (the finale)

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This week’s talk with Chef Virginia Willis marks the end of the pandemic conversation series with many of my favorite, most respected, role model chefs.

But just like the virus itself, there will be more popping up every now and then. Each time I have a chef’s ear, I will grill them (nicely) and share the results with you, Gentle Reader.

QUESTION: If you had a magical pantry that had any item you wanted, regardless of season, what is your ultimate homemade comfort food?

Chef Willis: There’s absolutely nothing like a vegetable plate in the summer with butterbeans, corn, tomatoes, and okra — all squished around with mayonnaise-tinged juices. Fresh butterbeans are one of my favorite all time vegetables from childhood.

If you could get delivery from any restaurant in the world, which eatery would you call, and what would you order?

Wow! This is a hard one!

What’s the best new recipe you’ve discovered?

I am in LOVE with the Chocolate Peanut Butter Frozen Dessert. It’s an amazing technique. As a Weight Watchers follower, I love having an easy dessert that’s low in points and good. Pretty much the trifecta.

Every food person has at least one odd, semi-embarrassing food-related collection; mine is jams and jellies and thrift store Corningware. What’s yours?

I see absolutely nothing odd about jams, jellies, or Corning ware! I have a significant amount of ironstone. I have more sets of dishes and white plates than one person should have.

Is there some food that shall never pass your lips? What is it?

I’ll try anything once.

What’s the craziest thing that you’ve ever had happen on TV?

I broke the $10K ice cream maker when I was on “Chopped.” (I will only add that in my rebound, I was the only chef that successfully used the anti-griddle.)

What’s on the menu for your birthday dinner?

My birthday is late December and smushed between Christmas and New Year’s Eve. I prefer a simple supper at home with friends and family.

Best advice you can give a novice cook?

Keep trying, keep practicing, and keep learning. It takes practice to become a good cook.

Three indispensable kitchen tools?

Chef knife, small offset spatula, 6-inch sturdy tongs.

Three foods you always have on hand?

Hmm. Ingredients? Pantry? I’ll respond with foods that I always have a selection of because they are so important to cooking. Good fats such as nut oils, olive oil, tahini and butter. Acidic elements: lemons, oranges, vinegar. I always have apple cider vinegar — and have started making my own! Lastly, I always have whatever fresh fruits and vegetables that are in season in my kitchen. Other than salt and pepper, you have everything you need to cook a fantastic meal.

What’s your Waffle House order?

Two eggs over easy, well-done scattered and smothered hash browns, whole wheat toast, bacon. And, that just made me hungry!

Thank you Chef!

Years ago I went to a class on Southern cooking at the late, lamented Southern Season. Chef Virginia’s friend and mentor Nathalie Dupree was the guest lecturer. I got to spend a little time with her both before and after. She is kind, smart, funny, and a dean emeritus of the Southern plate.

The only thing that even slightly dimmed her sunny demeanor was when I called her “Chef.”

She kept saying, “Don’t call me chef, I am Nathalie!”

She cooked each course, then it was served to us. It was summer, so the dishes were all chock full of Chef Virginia’s favorite summer produce. Even though I’ve never liked butter beans, this dish was my favorite that night.

Because…turns out using fresh butter beans and cooking them for minutes rather than weeks turns them into an entirely new animal.

Who knew?

Thanks, Chef Virgina, Nathalie, and you, Gentle Reader, for your time.

Contact debbie at debbie@bullcity.mom.


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