Byrne keeps ’em coming back for more

Published 2:56 pm Wednesday, February 28, 2007

A cookbook is like a good novel to Loveta Byrne. Known for her skills in the kitchen, she is a likely person to contribute to cookbooks and likes to do so.

It comes as no surprise, then, that some of her recipes are included in “Encore,” a new cookbook published by the Natchez Festival of Music Guild as a fundraiser for the festival.

“I’m always flattered to have my recipes used,” Byrne said.

Email newsletter signup

Cooking is a natural for her. The kitchen is her refuge, she said. “Anytime I’m under stress or strain, the kitchen is where I want to be,” she said.

The idea for a cookbook was tossed about for a couple of years before guild members began to compile the recipes, said Cathy Walker, guild president.

“We’re always looking for fundraising ideas to help with whatever expenses the festival has,” Walker said. The Natchez Festival of Music is held throughout the month of May each year, with a program of opera, Broadway, jazz and popular music.

Walker likes the variety of recipes and people included in the new cookbook.

“Some of our artists who have been at the festival gave us recipes,” she said.

Her mother, Estelle Woodall, and her sister, Martha Price, both of Little Rock, Ark., are fans of the festival and attend every year. They contributed recipes, also.

“Encore” is dedicated to the late John Martin Terranova, a beloved and highly regarded chef in Natchez. Several of his recipes are included in the book.

Like Terranova, who cooked in “some of the finest kitchens in the South,” the cookbook says, Byrne, too, has a background in restaurants.

Two of her best-known Natchez restaurants are the former Sidetrack and The Pompous Palate.

And during the years she lived at the antebellum house The Burn, she prepared meals for many crowds.

“I did the food for lots of dinner parties for tour groups,” she said.

In her own kitchen today, she continues to follow some of the same rules as in restaurant food preparation: fresh herbs, which she grows herself; plenty of Worcestershire sauce on hand for savory dishes; plenty of Scotch for use in seafood dishes; and a chunk of fresh nutmeg in the refrigerator to grate when needed.

If she has any philosophy about food, it is that “it should taste good and look good.”

Her mother, the late Helen Bearden, was a good cook; and her three children, Pat Mullins Jonaitis, Kristie Byrne Chandler and Kevin Byrne, are good cooks.

“My children are all good cooks but it’s not because I taught them anything,” she said. “I didn’t want anyone in the kitchen with me. It has to be in the genes.”

The cookbook will expand as needed, Walker said. “Each year, we’ll try to get new recipes and add new sections,” she said.

“Encore” has more than 150 pages of recipes, including appetizers, beverages, soups, salads, vegetables, side dishes, main dishes, breads, desserts and other sweets.

Walker is devoted to the festival and is serving as guild president for the third year.

“It’s such a blessing to Natchez to have this wonderful music come to us,” she said.

The cookbook is $25 and is available through guild members or by calling the Festival of Music office, 601-442-7464.