Chapel Hill Eats

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Tabasco Guardians of the Tradition: Chapel Hill, NC

The Southern Foodways Alliance honors the men, women and establishments who have served Chapel Hill as Tabasco Guardians of the Tradition.

“The heroes of our cuisine are often unsung and uncelebrated women and men,” said Lolis Eric Elie, the primary force behind the awards. “Their considerable skills tend not to be rewarded with the type of fame and fortune that is increasingly part and parcel of the white table cloth world of celebrity chefs and destination restaurants. Still, we recognize that they are the essential elements, the foundations of American cuisine in general and Southern cuisine in particular. So we have established the Tabasco Guardian of Tradition award, to be awarded at each Southern Foodways Alliance Field Trip.”

In September 2007 the SFA, along with members and friends, headed to Chapel Hill for the Camp Carolina field trip. Each of the Tabasco Guardians of the Tradition was presented with a special award designed by artist and MacArthur Grant recipient John T. Scott. And, of course, we collected their stories.

Featured here are three native North Carolinians, telling the stories of their lifework. Meet Keith Allen, who has manned the pits at Allen & Son Barbeque every day for close to forty years. Read about Cliff Collins’s long tenure in the meat cutting industry and find out how things have changed. And listen to Mildred Council, better known as Mama Dip, laugh about Craig Claiborne’s first visit to her restaurant. Meet the people who are the guardians of North Carolina’s foodways traditions.


JOHN T. SCOTT 1940-2007
It is with great sadness that we note the passing of artist John T. Scott. Mr. Scott, a native of New Orleans and recipient of a prestigious McArthur “Genius” Fellowship, created the print we use to celebrate the life and work of our Tabasco Guardians of the Tradition.


Interviews and photographs by Amy C. Evans.

Interviews

Allen & Son Barbeque - Keith Allen - Tabasco Guardians of the Tradition: Chapel Hill, NC - Chapel Hill Eats

Allen & Son Barbeque

Keith Allen grew up working on his grandparents’ farm in Burlington, North Carolina. There he learned to cure hams and make sausages. When Keith was nine years old, his father, James Allen, bought an Amoco station that happened to serve food. A couple of years later, he bought a barbecue restaurant, and Keith’s fate was sealed.

Cliff's Meat Market - Cliff Collins - Tabasco Guardians of the Tradition: Chapel Hill, NC - Chapel Hill Eats

Cliff’s Meat Market

Cliff Collins started working in a local meat market when he was still in high school. After five years behind the counter, he decided to open a place of his own. The year was 1973. Thousands of pork chops and chicken breasts later, Cliff’s Meat Market, the last of the family-owned markets in the area, is still going strong.

Mama Dip's Traditional Country Cooking - Mildred Council, "Mama Dip" - Tabasco Guardians of the Tradition: Chapel Hill, NC - Chapel Hill Eats

Mama Dip’s Traditional Country Cooking

Mildred Council, better known as Mama Dip, started cooking when she was nine years old. The family cooking duties fell upon her early, but not just because she was the youngest of seven children. Mildred was put at the stove after impressing her father with the cornbread and egg custard she made for a family meal.