At Hester & Cook, we are constantly inspired by the world around us. It is a privilege to work alongside many talented people in the industry and share their work with you. We are so excited to share an extra special Q+A with our friend, Vera Stewart. Many of you will recognize her from her TV show, The VeryVera Show. Hester & Cook has the privilege of being featured on The VeryVera show during their new season. You can find where to watch live episodes of the show here.
We spoke with Vera to learn more about her work and what inspires her.
Q: What inspired you to launch a career in the cooking industry?
A: My inspiration to take my home grown love of cooking and entertaining as a young person into a career was influenced by my high school homeroom teacher, who happened to be a Home Economics teacher. I was so interested in watching her set up the individual kitchenettes in her department and she mentored me to go to the University of Georgia and major in Home Economics Education.
Q: How long have you been cooking?
A: Honestly, I can’t remember but I must have been around eight years old. I have a milestone birthday in February 2023 and I would probably say that I have been cooking a lot longer than most people’s age that are reading this blog!
Q: Do you have a favorite tradition when cooking a special meal?
A: I love to set the table and determine the vessels for my food before planning my menu….basically the exact opposite of what most people do. I have put rolls in straw hats, fried chicken served from a cast iron skillet and cookies coming out of a bee hive!
Q: What inspired The VeryVera Show?
A: I was challenged to a Throwdown with Bobby Flay on the Food Network. He came to Augusta to try to beat me in preparing a carrot cake! I won and the local TV station called me the next week and offered to have me film six cooking episodes that they would just run over and over. That was 2013 and the show is now in its 11th Season with over 300 episodes and 40 Metropolitan markets.
Q: Where do you find new inspiration for new recipes you are creating and cooking?
A: I have been inspired in recent years to take the best of the tried and true old school recipes and as I say on the show, “put a twist on them”. Some of the popular recipes of the ‘80’s are some of the best and the cakes of the ‘40’s are even better. Just add something new or use fresh ingredients instead of canned and you have a whole NEW recipe.
Q: What is your favorite project you’ve ever worked on?
A: My favorite project since 1984 has been catering/hospitality during the Masters Golf Tournament in Augusta. What started out for us as just very basic food requests, has turned into VERA themed events, gifting, transportation, entertainment and development of original and southern inspired experiences for our clients.
Q: What part of your job do you enjoy the most?
A: In 2004 in looking for some diversification for the company, I decided to get the summer months out of the red. Mail order slowed down, weddings and big events didn’t happen in the summer and all of my profit during the other nine months was keeping our doors open. The VeryVera Cooking Camp, this summer celebrating 20 years, is the arena of the company that puts me back in the classroom and with the young, eager minds that remind me of myself.
Q: What are you working on at the moment?
A: Our second cookbook, Occasions, will launch in pre-sales in January and on shelves in stores and our website in late March/April. This book is written with occasions in mind and if you are stumped on what to do for Easter, family reunions or Christmas, we will hopefully be your go-to cookbook.
Image by: Brent Cline
Q: Why is setting the table an important part of sharing a meal with guests?
A: Setting the table is my absolute favorite part of entertaining. One small feather in my cap, that is probably hereditary, is creativity. I have had such a great time over the last 40 years being creative with my tablescapes, color choices and functionality of a service table. Paper products may not be Spode china but if the setting is amazing, you somehow forget the china and you are drawn into the theme, the experience and the magic or the elements in the table design.
Image by: Peter Frank Edwards
Q: Name something that excites you and why.
A: Taking my grandchildren to school!
Q: If you could dine with one person, past or present, who would it be and why?
A: My mother. She died at 65 years of age, but in my mind she will always be in her 40’s and 50’s. She raised five children by herself after being widowed at 40. I see a strong, well-groomed and smart woman who truly had no role model to introduce the journey she found herself on. I am thankful every day of my life for her ability to make it all happen and bear burdens that she never shared with us. She has her hand on my shoulder every time I think something is getting hard. I’d take her to Maine to eat Lobster!
Watch as Vera shares how to set the table after curating each meal. You can find where to watch live episodes of the show here.
To learn more about Vera Stewart, The VeryVera Show, VeryVera Camp and more, visit below.