This newspaper article details how Bill Neal, author of “Bill Neal’s Southern Cooking”, and part of a Southern Cooking show, came to be one of the leaders of modern southern cuisine. He opened two restaurants in Chapel Hill. One was La Residence, which utilized flavors from French and Southern food together. His other restaurant, Crook’s Corner, has received multiple awards for southern cooking, and is still operating today in Chapel Hill .
Neal traveled Europe, and tasted ingredients that were sourced locally. This impacted him greatly because he tasted food that was a combination of simple ingredients with strong flavors . He tried to replicate this in his restaurants through the use of changing menus, which reflected what was available locally that day. This is indicative of resistance against the strong increase of highly processed foods in grocery stores around the United States — people wanted something that tasted distinctly of home . While manufacturers were increasing production to satisfy the growing needs of the public, the individual consumer was still trying to seek identity through food that was generic and not as flavorful. This created the perfect opportunity for a new Southern food identity.
In these recipes, Neal incorporated influences from African, Western European, and Indian foods . His approach highlights how cuisine was becoming more multicultural and crossed through borders easier during the contemporary era, even though the reinvented food was still Southern. With these flavorful, local recipes, Neal brought a new era of Southern cooking to the United States. He received many awards for his cooking and cookbooks. His dishes managed to strike a distinct Southern identity in the combination of new food and seasonal local food. This was one of the first waves of regional identity that had been created for food in the United States.
– Nicholas Day
- Hubbard, Rhonda. “Local Chef a Master at Southern Cooking.” The Daily Tar Heel, 15 Apr. 1986.
- Medley, Kate and Jesse Paddock, directors. They Came For Shrimp & Grits: The Life and Work of Bill Neal. Southern Foodways Alliance, 21 July 2016, www.southernfoodways.org/film/they-came-for-shrimp-grits-the-life-and-work-of-bill-neal/.
- Ferris, Marcie Cohen. The Edible South: the Power of Food and the Making of an American Region. The University of North Carolina Press, 2016.