Amber Wilson of For the Love of the South talks about her favorite Nashville haunts and why she needed to update potpie.

By Kristin Donnelly
Updated May 23, 2017

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The Blog: Amber Wilson rejected an offer from NASA so she could pursue food writing. The result: For the Love of the South.

What are some of your favorite food discoveries from living in Nashville?
Being born and bred in the bayous of Louisiana, spice makes its way into almost every single dish I create. So, when I moved to Nashville, it was only natural that I became obsessed with Nashville hot chicken. Some of my favorite spots are Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack and Hattie B’s. Mas Tacos Por Favor quickly stole my heart as well (their elote is incredible!), and High Brow Brew is the place where I enjoy meeting friends for a glass of iced coffee or a scoop of HighRoad Craft fleur de sel ice cream with a shot of espresso poured right on top, affogato style.

Going back into your archives a bit, I see that you admit that potpie isn’t one of your favorite Southern dishes, so you updated it. Are there other classics you’re not as fond of that you’ve updated or want to?
Most of the potpies I grew up eating in the South were laden with cream, butter and heavy biscuit dough. I remember having to dig through the beige, thick filling to find any sign of chicken or vegetables in the potpie. But when my dear husband said he was craving this Southern staple, I decided to rise to the challenge and make potpie my way, which meant adding flavorful, roast chicken (or turkey) to the dish along with fresh vegetables, and a sprinkling of white cheddar and fresh herbs to the puff pastry crust. A few more examples of using essential Southern ingredients/dishes in unconventional ways can be found in my Homemade Louisiana Pecan Milk, Cajun Mustard Green Chips, Southern Cobb Salad with Alabama White Sauce, Bananas Foster Crêpe Cake and Chicory Granita & Bourbon Whipped Cream.

What ingredients are you most excited about right now and how are you using them?
Summer is my favorite time of year, mainly because of the summer produce the South has to offer. I’ve been knee-deep in creating recipes with honeysuckles, blackberries, peaches, strawberries and okra. Honeysuckles lovingly perfume Honeysuckle Pound Cake. Blackberries made their way into my grandma’s amazing blackberry pie. Peaches from the Peach Truck and local strawberries also debuted in a lattice-laced pie and in a delicious array of summertime lemonades. But my all-time favorite ingredient at the moment is okra. My favorite ways to prepare okra are Cornmeal + Cayenne Crusted Fried Okra, Smothered and served with Chicken + Sausage Gumbo and Spicy Oven-Roasted Okra.

What are your favorite food blogs right now?
Right now, my favorite food blogs are the ones with lovely stories along with wonderful recipes and photography. Manger, Orangette, Not Without Salt, Hortus Natural Cooking and Seven Spoons are a few of my current favorites for inspiration.

Kristin Donnelly is a former Food & Wine editor and author of the forthcoming The Modern Potluck (Clarkson Potter, 2016). She is also the cofounder of Stewart & Claire, an all-natural line of lip balms made in Brooklyn.