SOCIAL CIRCLE, Ga. — Nathalie Dupree remembers the details of her experience in Newton County like it was yesterday — even though it was half a century ago.
The nationally acclaimed cookbook author and originator of the New Southern Cooking Movement honed her technique in the Brick Store community of eastern Newton County, where she opened and operated an early restaurant of the 1970s.
Dupree spoke by phone from Raleigh, North Carolina, where she now lives with husband Jack Bass. She was planning a Christmas dinner just for the two of them with quail from Manchester Farms in South Carolina.
“I haven’t decided how I’m going to cook it yet, probably with pepper jelly,” she said.
She and “former favorite husband” David Dupree operated Nathalie’s restaurant across from The Hub, a grocery store that had been a major destination for passenger buses during WWII and still served as a major stop for long-distance transit operations in the early 1970s.
The couple purchased an old warehouse and office trailer as well as 15 acres of land around the corner from the US Highway. 278 and Georgia Highway. 11 which they converted into an antique store and restaurant in 1971. The office trailer was turned into a living space, she said.
Dupree also recalled living and working next to The Hub drive-in movie theater and across the freeway. 11 of the Tri-County Cattle Co.
“We could watch the movies from our window,” she laughed.
She said she met David Dupree when she worked in an office in New York. David worked in the corporate world in New York after growing up in Atlanta and Social Circle.
His mother-in-law, Celeste Sigman Dupree, was an Atlanta banker who later became a famous historic home conservator and restored approximately 15 properties in Social Circle.
Nathalie 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 traveled parts of Europe with her parents before returning to the United States.
“We always wanted to come 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 failure,” she said.
“So I ran the biggest paper route in Covington, Georgia to start the restaurant,” Nathalie said. “I was throwing the newspapers every morning with our German Shepherd dog – I was making a pretty good income.
“My brother and my husband … built the cabinets (for the restaurant) and everything. They put railway sleepers in the front of the building and gave it a very charming look.
“We painted it blue, and at first we called it Mt. Pleasant Village,” she said.
Oby and Ann Brewer lived in the nearby historic Mt. Pleasant Plantation home, she said.
Ann Brewer then became a fundraiser for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation and helped start the farm-to-table movement in Georgia. Oby Brewer was a real estate agent and David Dupree was able to get his real estate license because of him, Nathalie said.
Mt. Pleasant Village featured Nathalie’s home-cooked meals on one side and antiques and items such as flowers and fresh plants from her father-in-law’s greenhouse on the other side, she recalls.
“We had these beautiful geraniums that I kept there,” she said. “It was a family affair.”
They then moved their home to Monticello Street in Covington but continued to operate the Hub’s restaurant.
“We did everything from scratch,” she said. “I certainly got a lot of complaints that the beans were undercooked.”
“Zucchini was a new vegetable,” she said. “It was still the era of yellow squash.”
The restaurant, Nathalie’s, drew customers from as far away as Atlanta. Kate Almon and Grace Reeves helped her in the kitchen, she said.
“We worked in the cool 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 bring her style of cooking to rural Georgia in the early 1970s 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 ability to offer a lot of choice but it didn’t occur to me that people wouldn’t like the right one. food if they ate good food – and we could create a pleasant environment.
She said she used a French cooking technique with ingredients from the southern United States in her dishes.
“It’s become the new Southern cooking movement,” she said. “I realized how similar, yet different they were.”
She was referring to a style of cooking she is credited with starting – and which many restaurants use today. Her first TV cooking show was called “New Southern Cooking with Nathalie Dupree”.
In 1975, one of his regular customers liked his style of cooking enough to make him a commercial offer.
“A restaurant patron was an executive at 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 in downtown Atlanta from Rich’s Department Store.
She said she accepted the offer, separated from her husband, and moved to Atlanta to open the school, which ended up educating more than 10,000 students before it closed around 1984.
She is then author or co-author of 13 books. Her first White Lily Flour-sponsored television show in 1986 led to nine television 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 mom also lived in Social Circle,” 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 “just a few houses from the fire station”.
There she shot three series.
“We loved it,” she recalls. “It was a big house and there was a little cubby in the back and my husband was able to write a few books there.”
They then moved to Charleston, South Carolina in the late 1990s, where she wrote a regular column for the Charleston Post and Courier newspaper.