TLC#59: Food for Thought: Dinner with Virginia Willis at Hancock Shaker Village


Shaker Meets Southern with Virginia Willis

Top Left Tunes

2014's Prospect Hill, Dom Flemons' first release after leaving the Carolina Chocolate Drops, is an intense whirlwind of a tour through eclectic folk styles and textures.

This episode features “Hot Chicken,” off Dom Flemons‘ release, Prospect Hill. We interviewed this Grammy Award winning artist on a recent episode of the Cornbread Cafe, our American Roots music show. Check out the artist’s website, find out more about him, and maybe even pick up a CD or download while you’re there. Tell him Jay sent you.


Text from submitted release

HANCOCK, Mass.—The Chicago Tribune praised Georgia-born, French-trained, chef Virginia Willis as “one of the seven food writers you need to know,” and on Saturday, November 4, 2017, you’ll get the chance over dinner at Hancock Shaker Village when Shaker meets Southern. Willis, Editor-at-Large for Southern Living, is considered a leading authority on southern cuisine, its origins, and evolutionary future, and she’ll talk about Kentucky and Ohio Shaker foodways. There’s much more to southern cooking than we’ve been lead to believe, and she’ll show us the way. The perception may be BBQ and bacon, but in fact, thanks to a 12-month growing season, produce plays a large role in their regional foodways.

Virginia Willis; submitted photo.
Virginia Willis; submitted photo.

As a child, making biscuits – the same recipe she uses today – with her grandmother was the beginning of a culinary adventure which includes articles in national publications like Southern Living, Eating Well, and Fine Cooking, a food blog (named a favorite by Saveur), five books, and a James Beard Foundation Award of Excellence. Willis has been featured in the Washington Post, USA Today, Serious Eats, and Tasting Table and quoted in the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. She has worked behind the camera for Martha Stewart and in front of the camera with Bobby Flay.

Currently, Willis is developing with WGBH a series called Secrets of the Southern Table: A Food Lover’s Tour of the Global South to air nationally on public television in 2018.

“Food is central to Hancock Shaker Village,” said president & CEO Jennifer Trainer Thompson. “We have 5 acres of heirloom gardens that we tend – just as the Shakers did two hundred years ago. When we say field-to-table, we’re talking maybe a hundred feet from the onion being pulled to the kitchen door. Virginia is an authority on Southern foods, and teaming up with Brian in the kitchen promises to be a culinary souffle. We can’t think of a better way to wrap up our series for the season than to return to our roots: nourishment.”

Willis, who champions social justice and sustainable sourcing, teams up with Hancock Shaker Village regional farm-to-table chef Brian Alberg to reimagine Southern cuisine on a New England farm and create a memorable neighborhood sourced meal highlighting heirloom produce from the Hancock Shaker Village gardens. The communal dinner will be served by candlelight in the beautiful historic 1830s Brick Dwelling dining room and includes wine and a copy of her latest cookbook, Lighten Up Y’all.

Food for Thought: Dinner with Virginia Willis
Saturday, November 4, 2017; 6:00 p.m.
Hancock Shaker Village
1843 W Housatonic Street, Pittsfield, Mass.
Tickets: $100—Available via Hancock Shaker Village website

The Menu

Butternut Squash Soup. Thyme Sautéed Apples. Country Ham.

Main Course
Herb Crusted Fresh Ham with Onion Gravy
Slow Roast Carrots and Parsnips with Dill
Stone Ground Herb Grits and Greens
Chive Biscuits
Pickles and Preserves

Chocolate Chess Pie. Black Walnut Brittle. Buttermilk Creme Fraiche.

Shaker Meets Southern

Food for Thought: Dinner with Virginia Willis is the final 2017 dinner in a series at Hancock Shaker Village of today’s most compelling authors talking about wide-ranging subjects of relevance today. Far ahead of their time, the Shakers addressed gender equality, sustainability, land renewal, racial equality, pacifism, and shared economies decades before fashionable, let alone there being a vocabulary to address such subjects. Hancock Shaker Village’s Food for Thought invites today’s best thinkers to address topics of importance to our community and world.

About Virginia Willis

Chef Virginia Willis is the author of Lighten Up, Y’all, Bon Appétit, Y’all, and Basic to Brilliant, Y’all, as well as Okra: A Savor the South Cookbook and Grits by Short Stack Editions. Lighten Up, Y’all: Classic Southern Recipes Made Healthy and Wholesome received a 2016 James Beard Foundation Award of Excellence in the Focus on Health category and was a finalist for Best American cookbook by the International Association of Culinary Professionals. She is currently in development with WGBH for a series called Secrets of the Southern Table: A Food Lover’s Tour of the Global South to air nationally on public television stations.

She is an Editor-at-Large for Southern Living writes a popular on seasonal ingredients called “Cooking with Virginia.” The Chicago Tribune praised her as one of “Seven Food Writers You Need to Know.” A popular Southern chef, her legion of fans love her knack for giving classic French cooking a down-home feel and reimagining Southern recipes en Français. Her eponymous food blog, tagged as a favorite blog by Saveur magazine, receives rave reviews for her recipes and stories celebrating her Southern heritage and classic French training. Her articles have appeared nationally including Southern Living, Food52, CNN, All Recipes, Country Living, Eating Well, Family Fun, and Fine Cooking. As a nationally recognized Southern food and beverage authority she has been featured in the Washington Post and USA Today, Serious Eats, and Tasting Table and quoted in the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal.

Virginia is the former TV kitchen director for Martha Stewart Living, Bobby Flay, and Nathalie Dupree. She was the producer of Epicurious on the Discover Channel and Home Plate for Turner Studios. In front of the camera, Virginia has appeared on Food Network’s Chopped, Fox Family and Friends, Martha Stewart Living, Paula Deen’s Best Dishes, and as a judge on Throwdown with Bobby Flay. Her culinary consulting company, Virginia Willis Culinary Enterprises, Inc specializes in recipe development, content creation, culinary editorial services, culinary video production, spokesperson representation, and media training.

She is a member of The James Beard Foundation, Chef’s Collaborative, Les Dames d’Escoffier, Georgia Organics, the International Association of Culinary Professionals, and the Southern Foodways Alliance. She participates in Chef’s Move to Schools and is also part of the No Kid Hungry Blogger Program for Share our Strength. Virginia is on the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch Blue Ribbon Task Force. As an Atlanta chef, she is proud to be on the Atlanta Community Food Bank Advisory Board as well as the Atlanta Community Farmer’s Market Advisory Board.

About Hancock Village

Home to the Shakers for more than 220 years, Hancock Shaker Village is now an outdoor history museum dedicated to preserving the Shaker legacy and making that story relevant and illuminating for today’s visitors. Situated on 750 acres of picturesque farm, field, and woodland in the bucolic Berkshires of Massachusetts, the Village consists of 20 historic buildings, a working farm and heirloom gardens, and a premier collection of 22,000 authentic Shaker artifacts.

Mentioned in the show:

Chef’s Collaborative

Calhoun’s Restaurant

New England Culinary Institute

The Guardian; Article: “Insectageddon: farming is more catastrophic than climate breakdown,” by George Monbiot

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