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Food for Thought; Dorette Snover ’78

Photo courtesy of Dorette Snover

After Hurricane Fran ripped through Chapel Hill, N.C., in 1996, and three
oak trees crashed into her kitchen, Dorette Snover ’78, a food writer and
former private chef, dug out from under the debris and renovated the
damaged area. What she didn’t realize at the time was that she’d also be
renovating her life.

Excited to show off her new kitchen, Snover gathered her son and some of his young friends for an afternoon of cooking pizza and pies just for fun. They loved it, she says, and so did the kids’ parents. One even suggested she teach cooking skills on a regular basis—so she did! The C’est si Bon Cooking School, conceived in her rejuvenated kitchen, was born. “The best things sometimes come from the unexpected!” she exclaims.

The C’est si Bon Cooking School, located on a few acres in Chapel Hill, a town famous for good food, now includes its own building, an organic garden, hens and turkeys, which allow Snover to use fresh produce and eggs daily. “We are fortunate to put forth these programs and get people to participate,” she says of her youth, teen, adult, one-on-one and team-building classes. Teaching everything from appetizers to desserts, Snover has more than 1,000 recipes in her growing collection. Who’s easier to teach, children or adults? “We often cover more basics with the adults!” she jests.

Growing up and living with her grandmother on Fourth Street in Reading, Pa., Snover was immersed in Pennsylvania Dutch culture as a child. “The kitchen was a big part of the home,” she says. There were farmers’ markets and fresh food being sold on the street. The Pennsylvania Dutch tradition that influences her cooking the most is the uses of sweet and sours—chowchow and pickled beets as sours and apple butter and spiced fruits as sweets. However, her favorite dish to cook is whatever is in season, particularly Provencal cuisine—food from the southern region of France.

In addition to running C’est si Bon, Snover is still active as a food writer and is currently working on a novel. City of Ladies, about a 16th century female French bread baker’s apprentice, is inspired by The Book of the City of Ladies by Christine de Pizan written in 1405.

Between mixing, sautéing and writing, Snover has been teaching at C’est si Bon for the last 12 years. “I’m lucky to teach people to cook, but it’s more than just cooking, it’s a connection,” she says. “The kitchen is a sacred and wonderful place because people can share life, conversations and sit at a table together…food is universal, everyone loves to talk about it and discover what it is that makes it so special.”

– Kathleen Peightel ‘09

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