Born and raised in a log cabin in rural Madison County, Susi Gott Séguret has had successful careers as a performer of traditional Appalachian music, a food writer and editor (Appalachian Appetite, her cookbook and tribute to Madison County, was released in 2016) and a chef (she holds a degree in gastronomy from the Cordon Bleu in Paris).
She’s also a teacher, sharing her varied talents and passions through her Seasonal School of the Culinary Arts cooking classes, which she hosts in Ithaca, N.Y.; Sonoma, Calif.; Paris; and each summer at Warren Wilson College in Swannanoa.
The roster of classes for the upcoming summer session, scheduled for Sunday, Aug. 6, through Saturday, Aug. 12, marks the SSCA’s 13th season with a full lineup of celebrated Asheville chefs leading the courses. Xpress recently spoke with Séguret about her school’s history and what the upcoming summer session has in store.
Mountain Xpress: Tell us a little bit about this year’s theme for the school?
Susi Gott Séguret: This is the 13th year for the Seasonal School of Culinary Arts — my baker’s dozen year. Every year I have given the class a different theme or title, and this year I have decided to highlight culinary authors, specifically chefs who are also authors. And since Asheville has a wealth of folks who have recently come out with cookbooks, I am highlighting several of those, including Katie Button, who will be teaching on Monday morning. Mark Rosenstein, who has an older book called Apples, is always working on new projects, and then there’s Joe Scully, who does not have a book but will be highlighting Troy Ball of [Pure Heart: A Spirited Tale of Grace, Grit, and Whiskey]. [There will also be] Nan Chase, who has written Eat Your Yard and Drink the Harvest, and Jason Roy, who has the new Biscuit Head cookbook, and Barbara Swell, who has a wealth of cookbooks.
What can attendees expect from the classes?
Every morning will be a different three-hour, hands-on session with a different chef, which will be followed by a multicourse, wine-paired luncheon. We always orient the meals with what the chef is teaching so that the food does not go to waste, of course. Each evening will be an outing either to one of the restaurants owned by one of the chefs who are teaching or into one of the chef’s homes. It is all bookended by an opening session at the Garden Cabin on the Warren Wilson campus and closed by an extra optional session out at my farm in Madison County with a view on the mountain overlooking the Appalachian Trail and fireworks by Mark Rosenstein. We should point out that Rosenstein builds his own fireworks.
What is your connection with Warren Wilson College?
Warren Wilson is my alma mater, so for that alone, it is an obvious choice. But also my father built what is now the Herb Cabin, and my brother built the Garden Cabin on campus. When I first went back to visit and saw that with its wrap-around porch and its view over the farm and garden, I thought, “What an incredible place to hold a culinary school!” I love the synergy with the Swannanoa Gathering, which is going on simultaneously, because there is music in every corner. We frequently have musicians from the gathering come down and entertain students when we eat.
How do you select the chefs each year?
It’s never a challenge of, “How can I possibly fill the roster?” It’s always, “Oh dear, who can I not invite this year?” Because I want to have them all, but you can’t fit them all in. So we usually pick a different topic every year, and that tends to sort out which chefs are more likely to teach than others in a given year.
Do you have any examples of what guests will learn to make?
Katie Button will be doing some items from her cookbook: a gazpacho, pan con tomate (her tomato bread), tortilla espanola, pinchos marunos, which is a marinated lamb skewer, and an egg flan. Nan Chase will be doing something like cheesy herb popovers and green-and-white lasagna and nut tort with whipped cream and berry compote. And I’ll be doing a sweet potato canape, fried green tomato slivers, green scallion mayonnaise and three sisters chowder, tomato-scallion-caper quick bread, some cornbread and cracklins, sorghum cake and Carolina whipped cream.
How did you come up with the name for this session — With Knife & Pen?
That’s one of the things that I look forward to — talking with the chefs about that synergy of two different mediums to express yourself. I’ve always had that challenge of describing why I am passionate about both cooking and music, and for me, the fiddle bow and knife are really synonymous with that back-and-forth motion. A pen is much the same way: If you are writing well, you have that fluid motion that makes you feel good, and we in our modern times with our computers don’t get to touch base with that very much anymore.
Who typically attends the school?
It is open to anyone and all people. You really don’t have to be a professional to attend. I’ve had everyone from 13-year-olds to 87-year-olds in the past. Couples, novices, chefs or people who just want to spend time in the kitchen with luminaries such as Mark Rosenstein or Katie Button. Folks can sign up for the whole week, or they can sign up just for the day, or just for a morning or evening session depending on what suits their time and their budget.
The SSCA’s summer session runs Sunday, Aug. 6, through Saturday, Aug. 13. Cooking classes and lunches take place 9 a.m.-noon daily at Warren Wilson College in Swannanoa. Other components are scheduled at a variety of restaurants and venues in and around Asheville. For details and to register, visit schoolofculinaryarts.org or call 828-301-2792.