Lexington chefpreneur Harriet Dupree Bradley died October 31, 2023, after suffering from ovarian cancer in recent years.
A Cordon Bleu-trained chef and Sewanee grad, Dupree began her first food venture, The Brown Bag, selling soups and sandwiches out of a dorm kitchen.
At a 90s tasting menu she hosted at Dupree Catering, her creamy whipped potatoes served in a martini glass and garnished with a sliver of red pepper mimicking a straw were as revelatory as a spud is ever going to be here in the bluegrass. She owned and operated Dupree Catering & Events for nearly 30 years, feeding royalty, celebrities, and more, before selling it in 2014 to the Azur Restaurant Group.
In a 2000 Ace interview for the Fridges of Fayette County series, she shared a Nora Ephron-esque description of the staff lunch at Dupree Catering,
“We all sit down and eat lunch every day, and it’s a big deal. I heard my cook once telling a new cook, ‘Lunch is very important. As long as Harriet’s happy with lunch, you’ve got job security.’ I’ve fired people, and they still come back for the lunch.”
She added, “A meal can be a communion…the food, the people, the place, the time… There’s something about sitting down and breaking bread with people that makes us more human. Every dinnertime, my dog — who is always running about and yapping —gets completely relaxed and quiet; he just lies there. He wouldn’t do it if there weren’t some physical, mental and spiritual release going on at the dinner table. Food is a communion. As a cook, it’s an offering to the people I love. Even with [clients], the meal I fix is part of their most emotional moments.”
She also confessed amusing anecdotes like the time she “spilled hollandaise sauce in the back of my car [on a catering job], and I had to sell that car,” and another time she recalled dreaming she was at the beach, about to walk into the ocean wearing a bikini made of cheese grits.
Ahead of her time, Dupree founded a meal-prep service, Entree Vous in 2003, franchising it to multiple locations before selling the business five years later.
In recent years, she continued her culinary consulting, and at an August doctor’s visit, shared the comfort she received from enjoying a friend’s art adorning the clinic’s walls.
In September, she shared photos of downtown Lexington adorned with teal ribbons, in support of Ovarian Cancer Awareness, reminding her friends, “not all cancer is pink.”
A month ago this week, she celebrated her birthday on October 4. She turned 62.
Visitation will be Monday, November 6 from 4 pm to 6 pm at Milward’s Funeral Home, 159 North Broadway, Lexington.