Nathalie Dupree

Nathalie Dupree guest conducts the Charleston Symphony Orchestra during Piccolo Spoleto's Sunset Serenade concert at the U. S. Customhouse on Friday, May 24, 2019. File/Lauren Petracca/Staff

Once a tribute dinner for Nathalie Dupree was added to the James Beard House’s fall calendar, the event’s entrée was almost preordained.

“Our main course is a pork chop, because Nathalie is the founder of the pork chop theory,” says organizer Cynthia Graubart, who co-authored "Mastering the Art of Southern Cooking" with Dupree.

According to Dupree’s much-quoted theory, while a lone chop in a pan is bound to dry out, two chops will supply each other with the juice they need. Dupree’s longstanding belief that women are more likely to advance in male-dominated fields if they share knowledge and resources has led her to mentor scores of culinary professionals, who she affectionately calls her "chickens."

Graubart and four fellow “chickens” are responsible for the Oct. 5 dinner in New York City, which is being billed as “Nathalie Dupree’s 80th Birthday Bash.”

“I was trying to figure out something that would just be grand for Nathalie, something different,” Graubart says, adding that the James Beard Foundation was “really, really excited” to celebrate a three-time Beard award winner. Dupree in 2015 was named to the organization’s “Who’s Who in Food and Beverage” roll.

Virginia Willis was the first chef who Graubart recruited for the event team. She’ll be joined in the kitchen by Anne Byrn of Nashville, Tenn.; Rebecca Lang of Athens, Ga., and Kelly Litton of Knoxville, Tenn.

All of the dishes on the evening’s menu are inspired by Dupree’s recipes, including a shrimp-and-grits made with Geechie Boy grits and South Carolina shrimp being shipped north for the occasion.

For dessert, the chefs are serving personal-sized birthday cakes. The coconut cake, Coca-Cola cake and pound cake will all be accompanied by buttermilk ice cream.

The Birthday Bash is priced at $220 a person, with discounts available for James Beard House members. While the dinner is currently sold out, prospective ticket buyers can monitor jamesbeard.org for more information.

Reach Hanna Raskin at 843-937-5560 and follow her on Twitter @hannaraskin.

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