Advance for release Dec. 28 and thereafter
Southern icons make different cooking pitch
AP Graphic jcgaath
An AP Member Exchange
By CHRIS J. STARRS
ATHENS, Ga. (AP) — In the world of culinary entertainment, the only thing that improves a great recipe is the story that goes with it.
An original television production from Georgia Public Broadcasting, “Dixie Divas in the Kitchen” will explore the time-honored link between good cooking and good storytelling.
The show, which premieres at 2 p.m. Saturday, is hosted by two of the region’s best-known media personalities, author and columnist Ronda Rich (whose column appears Sundays in the Athens Banner-Herald’s Living section) and talk-show host, author and public speaker, Athens’ own Barbara Dooley.
“The concept is interesting and refreshing,” says Rich, whose column appears in more than 50 other newspapers in the Southeast. “Barbara and I are good friends, so the chemistry is good and we’re having fun. We’re both storytellers and we both love cooking, so it was a natural fit for us.”
“Barbara and Ronda are both entertainers and they have so much energy and enthusiasm,” says GPB’s Mandy Wilson. “We’re really excited about the possibilities of this show. We think it will resonate with viewers because they were really naturals on the set.”
Described as “a cooking show like no other,” “Dixie Divas” will showcase some of Georgia’s top culinary figures with their favorite recipes - and the stories behind them.
“(GPB corporate account executive) Herb White had the idea that we bring in cooks from Georgia who would prepare a family recipe,” says Rich. “His concept tagline was something like ‘Sharing recipes one story at a time.”’
“If you’re a Southern woman, there’s nothing better in life than a good story,” says Dooley, who has hosted a morning talk show on WGAU AM in Athens for more than 15 years and has been former UGA football coach and athletic director Vince Dooley’s better half for close to 50 years. “Vince will tell you that my signature is a good story. And if I don’t have a good story to tell, I’ll make one up.”
Rich and Dooley taped the pilot in late November at GPB’s Atlanta studios. The hour-long broadcast will feature contributions from WKHX FM radio host Dallas McCade (who will feature her recipe for Mexican cornbread); cookbook author Sallie Robinson (smothered shrimp and grits); Food writer Elizabeth Lee (pound cake); Athens-based Fire and Flavor CEO Gena Knox (rosemary cheese sticks); and Blue Willow Inn owner Louis Van Dyke (fried green tomatoes).
If the show — which will air again at 6 p.m. Sunday and at 9 p.m. Dec. 26 — becomes a regular part of GPB’s broadcast schedule, it’s expected that it will be 30 minutes in length. And the odds are good that “Dixie Divas in the Kitchen” will earn some command performances.
“It is our hope that it will be a continuing thing,” says Wilson. “Our programming department will look at it and we’ll see what kind of response we get from viewers. As with any show we offer, we hope people will watch and will contact us with their comments.”
Rich says she “invited myself along for the ride” when she heard GPB was mulling the idea of a Dooley-hosted cooking show.
“I’ve been doing commentaries for Georgia Public Radio for several years and (GPB general manager) Bob Houghton asked me one day what I thought about a cooking show hosted by Barbara Dooley. I told Bob, ‘We need to do that together.”’
“Ronda and I have known each other for a long time,” says Dooley, who also sells real estate and has a busy career on the public speaking circuit. “I love being with Ronda because she’s a hoot. We give off a lot of energy when we get together and I think this show will be a wonderful marriage. I’m looking forward to working with her and I hope people will like the show as much as we liked doing the first episode.”
Although Rich and Dooley will rely on guests to supply most of the recipes and tales, the co-hosts are excellent cooks themselves and shared what they’d prepare if and when they’re asked to present a recipe.
“They haven’t asked us for our favorite recipes, but they should,” says Rich. “I’d do my famous macaroni and cheese that I learned from my aunt or my homemade biscuits that my mother taught me.”
“If they want me to make something, it would probably be toast or dialing for takeout,” adds Dooley. “I have lots of Lebanese family recipes that I’d fall back on. Those recipes came from my grandmother, my mother and my aunt. I like to say that my grandmother had seasonings in her hands. She made the most wonderful dishes but never used a spoon to mix things - she did it with her hands. I could follow just about everything she did, but because I didn’t have her hands, it doesn’t seem like it’s seasoned right.”
When asked what her husband’s favorite dish is, Dooley quips, “I’ve never made a dish that Vince didn’t like. He’s the most wonderful man to cook for. I’ve never made anything he didn’t eat and didn’t say he enjoyed.”
Both Rich and Dooley have busy schedules but both say they’ll have no trouble fitting television tapings in there somewhere.
“It seems like the busier you are, the more you fit in,” says Dooley. “Just when you think you can’t do one more thing, you always seem to find a little time.”
“I know Barbara’s schedule is just as crazy as mine,” adds Rich. “I think we’ll be able to do two shows at a time, so we’ll figure out how to manage it.”