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Down to Her (Southern) Roots: Chef Lisa Dupar Talks Hometown Cooking

The Pomegranate Bistro owner and chef will host FareStart's Guest Chef Night on June 30
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Chef Lisa Dupar would be content with a plate of fried chicken and a glass of champagne.

“I was raised in the South, and my grandparents had an oyster bed on Edisto Island [in South Carolina],” she says. “Our family culture was to cook, eat, talk about food, fish, crab, shrimp and eat more.”

Having lived in locations across the map—from Georgia to South Carolina to Switzerland to Seattle—Dupar has, for years, been successfully merging Southern-inspired cooking into whatever environment she's been in.

Dupar earned her first dollar in high school, learning how to decorate cakes from her boyfriend’s mom. She spent two and a half years cooking in Switzerland and, in 1981, became the first female chef at the Westin Seattle. She opened her inaugural restaurant Southern Accents in 1984, which represented her homage to classic Southern dishes; she later sold the Redmond establishment. In 2005, Dupar opened Pomegranate Bistro in Redmond.

Oh, did we mention she also owns a catering companyone that now stages more than 1,500 events a year? Or that her first cookbook, Fried Chicken & Champagne: A Romp Through the Kitchen at Pomegranate Bistro, received the First Book: the Julia Child Award from the International Association of Culinary Professionals in 2011? Yeah, she’s good.

Dupar has also devoted plenty of time during her stellar career to working with FareStart, an organization that assists homeless and disadvantaged men, women, and youth with culinary training and job placement. On June 30, she'll help students prepare a three-course, gourmet meal to FareStart diners during Guest Chef Night, an event she’s been participating in since the organization's early days.

“It's always amazing to hear the graduates' stories,” she says. “It snaps me right back down to earth with the realization of how very lucky I am. I leave the evening feeling like for a small moment, I made a difference.”

Make your reservations for the evening now.

What is going to be on the menu for your Guest Chef Night? How did you develop the menu?

I picked dishes from our early summer catering menu that I thought would be fun for the students to learn and also show off the expertise of the Seattle Les Dames community.

What do you enjoy about being a part of Les Dames d'Escoffier, an organization that educates and mentors women in culinary professions?

The company I get to keep. These women are so accomplished and do so much to give back it is a constant inspiration.

What made you want to start your own catering business?

Necessity is the mother of invention. I was newly pregnant and my husband lost his position, and I remember saying, “Well, I could cater!” I had my restaurant Southern Accents, and I was constantly getting asked to cater Southern food. (I still am.)

What are some of the most important lessons you’ve learned in your culinary career?

Work with people who share your same values. Then you literally have a galvanized team working toward the same goals.

What is the most rewarding part of your job?

Seeing how happy people are with their food and experiences with us. Especially weddings, or high-stakes events where so much passion, attention and emotion is invested into the success of the event and it comes out exactly as the client envisioned.

What is the best advice you’ve ever received?

Your greatest power in life is the power to choose. We can choose our response to any situation. The quality of that response creates the quality of our lives.

Why is Seattle a great food city?

Great chef talent combined with the most diverse selection of farmers, fishermen and artisans to support us in our wildest dreams.

Where do you go to grab a bite to eat in Seattle?

Ba Bar [on Capitol Hill] or any of Josh Henderson’s places.

What food trend do you wish was over?

Cake pops

What advice would you give to aspiring chefs?

Have patience and perseverance. My chef told me it takes longer to become a chef than it does to become a doctor.

What is your ultimate comfort food dish?

Shrimp and grits

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