For Stephanie Burt, food has always served as a catalyst for connection. Growing up in Charlotte, North Carolina, she spent many afternoons with her mother and grandmother learning the ins-and-outs of the kitchen. One of Stephanie’s most vivid memories is of her grandmother’s fried chicken, often enjoyed during sunny afternoon picnics at the park.
Stephanie’s love for fried chicken remains intact today, providing a sort-of homecoming for the food writer who spends countless hours at restaurant tables and on the road exploring the South’s foodways.
Before turning her attention to the culinary world, Stephanie received her master’s degree in American Literature, devoting her time to researching and writing about the occult. However, after a few uncomfortable book signings, she knew the world of vampires and werewolves wasn’t for her.
Her love for all things food led her to begin writing about the makers and chefs who inspired her. Leaning into her roots, Stephanie sought to uncover the history behind the flavors that defined the South. Interviewing hundreds of chefs, purveyors, artisans, and more, she has devoted her work to finding the common thread that ties together communities throughout the region.
Using her unique perspective as a guide, Stephanie has helped shine a national spotlight on Southern cuisine by publishing stories for outlets including SAVEUR, Travel + Leisure, and more. She gets even more intimate on her podcast, The Southern Fork, where she has one-on-one conversations with the people behind the famed food of the American South.
Ultimately, Stephanie sees food as an opportunity to reach out and overcome the divisiveness that has riddled our society. Because, regardless of your ethnicity, gender, etc., everyone has a story about their favorite meal.
Stephanie claims she can get any chef to engage in a real conversation with only two questions. First, “How did you get into cooking?” Then, once they give the sure answer about childhoods spent in the kitchen, “Did you spend a lot of time with that family member?” What follows is an interaction that goes beyond surface level and opens the door for true connection.
Stephanie believes this method can be applied to every interaction, whether it be on an airplane or in line at a Starbucks. You just have to be willing to engage and find the common thread.
She challenges everyone to step outside of their own thoughts for a moment and find a way to connect with those around you. Even if it’s as simple as asking what flavor cake pop the person in front of you ordered.
These simple conversations lay the groundwork for connection, allowing us to preserve our communities as differences in opinion and ideology threaten to divide us. And that is why, as Stephanie asserts, food is so much more than what is on your plate.
-Chris Bailey, Marketing Coordinator