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Chef Nathalie Dupree ‘coming early and staying late’ for Epicurience

Chef Nathalie Dupree, a two-time James Beard Award winner, will be on hand for chef demonstrations and a book signing at Visit Loudoun’s Epicurience Labor Day weekend. Courtesy Photo/Facebook
Nathalie Dupree is coming home. And the Virginia-bred, James Beard Award-winning chef plans to learn a thing or two.

Dupree will return to the Old Dominion Labor Day weekend to headline the second installment of Visit Loudoun's Epicurience wine and food festival.

“I'm definitely coming early and staying late,” Dupree told the Times-Mirror last week, her excitement felt through the phone states away.

As one of the marquee chefs, Dupree will dazzle attendees with demonstrations in the chef's tent at Epicurience's Grand Tasting, held Aug. 30 from noon to 6 p.m. at Morven Park in Leesburg. She'll also host a book signing.

But what it seemed Dupree is looking forward to more than her own performance is learning from and collaborating with Virginia's top chefs, taking in their techniques and creations.

“Wouldn't I be a fool if I didn't learn something everywhere I went?” Dupree noted. “I can't wait to see what's developing in Virginia and working with all the local products.”

Dupree grew up in Alexandria and now resides in foodie haven Charleston, S.C. Her rise to becoming one of the most recognizable and celebrated American chefs is not only serendipitous, but also a fairly profound commentary on the past half century.

“I was the world's worst secretary,” Dupree said. “And in those days, women were supposed to be secretaries or teachers … cooking was about the only thing I was good at.”

Good is an understatement. Dupree's best selling book (she's authored about a dozen), 2004's “New Southern Cooking,” played no small role in launching a Southern food renaissance. Her prestigious honors include being awarded the “Grand Dame” of Les Dames d’Escoffier, an international organization of top women in the food world, and being named the 2013 Woman of the Year by the prestigious organization French Chefs in America. Dupree's more than 300 TV specials have aired on The Food Network, PBS and The Learning Channel.

Her career began in earnest at Le Cordon Bleu cooking school in London, where she landed with her first husband. After graduating with distinction, Dupree jetted south to Spain for her first chef gig at a restaurant in Majorca, and then a return to the states to open her first restaurant in Georgia.

Decades later, Dupree and her husband, noted Southern historian Jack Bass, are savoring the unparalleled charms of Charleston, where the chef was instrumental in developing the Charleston Wine and Food Festival, which has become one of the premier culinary getaways on the East Coast.

Not surprisingly, the Charleston festival is often – and aspiringly – referenced as a model for what Epicurience may one day become.

Dupree said launching the South Carolina celebration taught her essential lessons about cooking exhibitions and demonstrations. Quick and concise is key.

“People have short attention spans,” she said. “We need to make sure it's something the fans can process.

“Us chefs, we're all a little ADD,” Dupree said.

One Dupree fan who can't wait to see what she cooks up at Epicurience is Visit Loudoun CEO Beth Erickson.

“I've always been a fan,” Erickson said. “I have cookbooks of hers going back decades.”

Last year's Epicurience, a four-day event scattered at various locations throughout D.C.'s Wine Country in Loudoun, drew roughly 1,200 attendees, a number Visit Loudoun officials hope to improve upon this year.

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