Secrets of the Southern Table with Virginia Willis

Our August 14 edition of The Connected Table LIVE comes with a southern drawl and a discussion about food that left listeners (and us) drooling, courtesy of  Virginia Willis, author  of "Secrets of the Southern Table" and southern food chronicler.

The South is a delicious hodgepodge when it comes to its culinary heritage and it is one of the most fascinating places to visit because of it. Many customs are rooted in traditions that blend diverse cultures: Irish, Scottish, English, French, African, Hispanic, Vietnamese and Greek, just to name a few. In fact, the upcoming Les Dames d'Escoffier International Conference October 24-27 in Nashville has a seminar focused on sorghum and honey and another on the culinary influence of immigrants past and present in the state of Tennessee. Diversity is the fabric of the south, and it's delicious. Hopefully this unique cultural heritage will endure and achieve greater appreciation.

In Secrets of the Southern Table (Houghton Mifflin), Willis introduces us to the farmers, producers and fisherman who supply the foods many of us enjoy at the restaurants throughout the south. Some are multi-generational families; others are (relatively) newer enterprises born from the dedication of immigrants who settled in pockets of the south. It’s a culinary tour that runs the gamut from sweet potatoes and grits to gospel birds and game birds to sweet shrimp and sausages. Throughout the book you can’t help but ponder about what truly defines “heritage” in the new south. It’s a richer place today thanks to the many cultures you find there. We should never take that for granted.

Willis has written cookbooks covering everything from single subjects (okra and grits) to the complete southern table with Bon Appetit Y’all and Basic to Brilliant, Y'all. And then after filling us all up with rich delicious recipes, she taught us how to “Lighten Up Ya’ll” with a tailored approach to preparing southern dishes. - trimming the fat without losing the taste. Her  articles and recipes can also be found at her  "Cooking with Virginia" column in Southern Living magazine.

Read more about Virginia Willis on her website and blog:

Listen to The Connected Table LIVE with Virginia Willis here. Click image below:


Buy Secrets of the Southern Table Here. Click Image below.

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Southern Y’All-Tide Greetings with Virginia Willis- Dec. 23

Count on one hand the ambassadors of Southern Cuisine, and Award-winning writer, chef, TV personality, and cookbook author Virginia Willis will invariably own one of those five fingers.

Virginia Willis

Georgia-born and French-trained, Virginia has been the go-to expert for such chefs and lifestyle experts as Bobby Flay, Paula Deen, and Martha Stewart, and has appeared on numerous TV shows such as Food Network’s Chopped, Fox & Friends, and NBC’s The Today Show. She’s also cooked with culinary world Grand Dames Julia Child and Nathalie Dupree (who gave Virginia her first job). She’s cooked for President Bill Clinton and, who knows, maybe she’ll cook for the first women president next?

Virgina’s five cookbooks embrace the culinary spirit of the south from “having it ‘ya’ll” to a single subject book on Okra. Her books include “Bon Appétit, Y’all,” “Basic to Brilliant, Y’all,” and her latest, released in 2015, “Lighten Up, Y’all.”  as well as the aforementioned book “Okra” and another entitled “Grits.”

Virigina's newest book. Who says southern food has to be fattening?
Virigina’s newest book. Who says southern food has to be fattening?
IACP Cookbook Award Winner
IACP Cookbook Award Winner


She is also the blogger for Down-Home Comfort  for Food Network. Named by the Chicago Tribune as one of “Seven Food Writers You Need to Know,” Virginia is also a contributing editor for Southern Living and writes for Eating Well, Fine Cooking, and countless other culinary publications.

Follow us on Twitter@connectedtable and Facebook/TheConnectedTable
Follow us on Twitter@connectedtable and Facebook/TheConnectedTable

Virginia joins us at The Connected Table LIVE!  Wednesday December 23, 2:25 pm EST to talk about her life in food and her special take on southern cuisine.

Y’All tune in now, Y’Hear?

Virginia in living collards. Read more about Virginia on her website:
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Educators and Mentors: The Connected Table LIVE! Feb. 25

Give a man to fish and you feed him for the day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime. – Chinese proverb

This week’s show spotlights two individuals whose culinary careers are rooted in education and who have served as mentors to many in the industry.

Southerners are very proud of their culinary heritage; recipes are carefully passed down generation to generation, and nothing beats a southern spread of country ham and biscuits, pimiento cheese on toast and a deep dish casserole served with sweet tea. Melanie grew up in Chattanooga and started her career in Atlanta in the early 1980s.  Back then there was one go-to person to learn about southern cooking….Nathalie Dupree.

Nathalie Dupree
Nathalie Dupree

For nearly a decade Nathalie founded and ran a cooking school in Rich’s Department Store in Atlanta which turned out more than 10,000 students in classes and apprenticeship programs, attracted a stellar list of guest instructors and produced graduates who’ve gone on to earn their own acclaim in the food industry. In 1984 Nathalie was elected president of the International Association of Cooking Schools, now the International Association of Culinary Professionals, with an agenda to set standards for the accreditation of cooking schools across the country.

Nathalie became the first women to have more television cooking shows than Julia Child– over 300 shows for The Food Network, PBS, and The Learning Channel. She is a best-selling author with 13 hardback and two soft back cookbooks. Her best selling book, New Southern Cooking, started an entire culinary movement. She has won James Beard Foundation Awards for Southern Memories and Comfortable Entertaining as well as her most recent book co-authored with Cynthia Graubart, Nathalie Dupree’s Mastering the Art of Southern Cooking.MasteringTheArt-330

In addition to hosting her own television shows, Nathalie has appeared on “NBC Today,””Good Morning America” and CNN, among others. She has been featured in the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune,  Bon Appétit, Food and Wine, Southern Living, Coastal Living, Better Homes and Garden, Cosmopolitan, and Good Housekeeping.

A native of South Carolina, Nathalie lives in Charleston with her husband, Jack Bass, who is author of nine books on the American South. She is The Founding Chairman of the Charleston Food and Wine Festival, a founder of the Atlanta and Charleston Chapters of Les Dames d’ Escoffier, the American Institute of Wine and Food and the International Association of Culinary Professionals, of which she was two- time President. Nathalie was awarded the prestigious “Grand Dame” recognition by Les Dames d’Escoffier and 2013 Woman of the Year by a prestigious organization of French Chefs in America. She is also a founder of the Southern Foodways Alliance which established a Nathalie Dupree Graduate Fellowship program in 2014.



Richard Grausman
Richard Grausman

Richard Grausman, one of America’s most respected culinary educators, credits cooking  lessons with late James Beard with inspiring him to turn what had been an extra-curricular hobby while working in the import business into a full fledged career. Richard has “paid it forward” through the non-profit he founded, Careers through Culinary Arts Program (C-CAP) whose students find rewarding careers in the restaurant and hospitality industry.

In 1967, Richard enrolled at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, where he decided on a career in teaching. He earned the coveted Grand Diplôme and so impressed the school’s owner, Madame Elizabeth Brassart, that she made him Le Cordon Bleu’s first exclusive ambassador for Le Cordon Bleu. In that role Richard taught in major cities across the United States, conducted travel seminars in Paris and the French Riviera, made television appearances and write recipes for top U.S. food and lifestyle magazine.

After the school changed ownership in 1985 Richard  spent the next few years teaching and writing independently. His cookbook, At Home with the French Classics (Workman, 1988) was met with commercial success.  After eight printings, it was redesigned, revised and released in 2011 as French Classics Made Easy.

In 1990, Richard piloted a program in twelve New York City high schools to teach French cooking in home economics classes. His intention was to teach American youth about the satisfaction and value of home cooking. The schools were all inner-city high schools filled with under served students. He soon realized that many of these students lacked job skills or college prospects.

To fulfill this need, Richard created C-CAP with the mission to enhance the culinary arts curriculum in public schools and better prepare under served students for college and career opportunities in the restaurant and hospitality industry. C-CAP provides teacher training, cooking competitions for scholarships, job training and internships for outstanding students, college and career advising, and product donations to classrooms. C-CAP works with over 165 public high schools, and the more than 220 teachers we support through professional development reach some 18,000 students annually in their classrooms.

Since its inception in 1990, C-CAP has operated continuously for two decades and awarded over $43 million in scholarships. While New York City remains the headquarters and flagship program, the C-CAP National Network now includes Arizona (statewide); Chicago; Hampton Roads, Virginia; Los Angeles; Philadelphia; and District Of Columbia/Prince George’s County, MD.

Many C-CAP students find rewarding careers in the restaurant and hospitality industry. We’ll also speak with Kelvin Fernandez, C-CAP’s youngest Executive Chef at 22.

C-CAP Graduate Chef Kelvin Fernandez
C-CAP Graduate Chef Kelvin Fernandez

A former high school baseball player, Kelvin attended a cooking class at Long Island City High School in Queens and decided to make food his career In 2003 Kelvin entered the C-CAP New York Cooking Competition for Scholarships and was awarded a  $40,000 scholarship to attend the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) in upstate New York.

Today,  Kelvin is the Executive Chef of La Marina Restaurant. He also serves as a FitChef for the NBA, is a judge for the C-CAP Meatless Monday Recipe Contest and has appeared on Food Network’s  “Chopped.” Kelvin regularly visits his high school culinary arts classroom to host cooking demos and also trains C-CAP students in his restaurant.

Kelvin says “C-CAP is one of the best things that has happened to the culinary industry. C-CAP gives young kids the opportunity to find a passion in life while still young.  If it wasn’t for C-CAP’s guidance, I would never have become C-CAP’s youngest Executive Chef at age 22.”

C-CAP Connect:

Kelvin Fernandez Connect:


Melanie Young and David Ransom, Hosts, The Connected Table LIVE!
Melanie Young and David Ransom, Hosts, The Connected Table LIVE!

Join Hosts Melanie Young and David Ransom Wednesdays 2pm ET/11 am PT on The Connected Table LIVE! on W4CY radio and any time on demand at Food and beverage industry insiders Melanie and David are the Insatiably Curious Culinary Couple who bring you the dynamic people who work front and center and behind the scenes in food, wine, spirits and hospitality.

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