Cook learned lessons of ‘plan and prepare’ from mom

Hendrix

We’re always on the hunt for good home cooks and their “back stories.” If you would like to suggest a family member or friend to be profiled here, please email food@postandcourier.com with “Good Cook” as the subject line. Briefly describe the person’s talent and how you know him or her, and provide their phone number or email address so we can contact them.

Today’s cook was recommended by her mother, Ann D. LeFevre.

Name: Beth LeFevre Hendrix.

Age: 49.

Residence: Charleston, Riverland Terrace.

Family: husband, Jim Hendrix; daughter, Liza Hendrix.

Occupation: Licensed tour guide, owner and operator of Charleston, Period.

Q. Your mother says you always liked to cook from the time you were a little girl. Do you remember the first thing you made all by yourself?

A. I received an “Easy Bake Oven” when I was about 5. I made a yellow cake with chocolate frosting.

Q. You started cooking in earnest as a newlywed and learned how to entertain around food. What was one of the earliest and lasting lessons you learned?

A. Plan and prepare. I would like to say I learned this on my own. However, the credit goes to my mother for setting the example. Prior to any gathering, be it a bridge luncheon, a cocktail party or cook-out, she made detailed lists and used recipes that could be prepared in advance. From her example I learned that if you are prepared and organized if something goes wrong you can adjust and adapt; the guests will be none the wiser. It’s like a duck gliding effortlessly across a pond. What you don’t see is that her feet are paddling like mad underneath the water.

Q. How would you describe your style of cooking, and how has it evolved?

A. My cooking style is eclectic and diverse. I’m willing to try almost anything. Both of my grandmothers were South Carolina natives, one from the Upstate and one from the Lowcountry, so those regional influences are very much a part of my cooking style. As the daughter of an Air Force pilot, we moved frequently. Even though we were never stationed overseas, we were surrounded by people who had. I ate my first live Maine lobster in North Dakota when I was about 7. Daddy had flown to New England and came home with a Styrofoam cooler containing a few of these funny creatures that later wound up on our plates. When other children were home watching cartoons after school, I was watching “The French Chef” and “The Galloping Gourmet.”

Q. We’re told you have a love of collecting cookbooks. What is one of your most treasured, and why?

A. Two of my favorites are “Joy of Cooking” and my first edition of “Hoppin’ John’s Low Country Cooking,” with a special inscription from the author.

However, the one cookbook I treasure the most is tattered, splattered and not available in any store. “The LeFevre’s Family Recipes” was the first gift I opened at my first wedding shower in 1985 and contains handwritten family recipes compiled by my mother. Each recipe has a note about where it was served or its history. For example, Granny Kennedy’s Pound Cake has these instructions: “Serve hot to Daddy with a large glass of milk.”

Q. You ran a tearoom in the Atlanta area for a while. When was that and why did you choose a tearoom concept?

A. I owned the Purple Iris Tea Shoppe in Buford, Ga., from 2001-05. I went to the Protocol School of Washington in 1997 and received certification as a tea and etiquette consultant in 1997. I have always drunk tea and loved all the frou-frou aspects of “taking tea.” After meeting several tearoom owners during the training, I thought this would be a great way to combine my love of entertaining and cooking. This was when my mother’s lesson of “plan and prepare” truly came to fruition.

Q. What was on the menu?

A. We served variations of traditional English afternoon tea with a Southern accent; finger sandwiches, dainty sweets, scones with lemon curd and cream and bottomless pots of fine, loose-leaf tea. This is what most people call “high” tea today, but high tea is actually a substantial evening meal. Eighty-five percent of what we served was homemade. We only served hot tea and iced tea — no coffee or soft drinks.

Q. You like the Lowcountry’s restaurant scene. What are your favorite restaurants, and why?

A. I think what I like most about the Lowcountry restaurant scene is that it fits my eclectic and diverse culinary background. Fat Hen for mussels, the Glass Onion when soft-shell crabs are in season, Blu on Folly Beach for the food and the view, Dixie Supply for tomato pie (get there early or they run out), and when I really need a bacon fix, nothing beats Ye Olde Fashioned’s BLT.

Q. If you were planning a party in October, what would be the theme and what food dishes and drinks would you serve?

A. It would be Oktoberfest — Lowcountry style! I would serve as much local fare as possible: garlic brats from Keegan-Filion, relishes and pickles from Granna’s Gourmet and Charleston Pickle Co. and of course beer! Holy City Brewing has a German Pilsner and also an American Pale Ale called “Pecan Dream” — what could be more Southern than pecan pie?

A favorite recipe:

Yield: 6 or more servings

At the tea shop, we used to make the filling and pipe it into phyllo tartlet shells. It does use raw eggs, but we have been making and eating this pie since anyone can remember and no one has suffered any ill effects.

Mother’s note in the book says, “Easy and probably most used pie recipe I have.”

Ingredients

½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened

¾ cup granulated sugar

1 square unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 large eggs

One 9-inch pie shell, baked and cooled (not deep dish)

Whipped cream and chopped nuts for garnish

Directions

In an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar until smooth and fluffy; add the chocolate and vanilla. Blend well, scraping the bowl as necessary. Add 1 egg and beat for 5 minutes (no more, no less). Add the remaining egg and beat another 5 minutes. Pour into pie shell and chill well. Top with whipped cream and chopped nuts.