His memories are peppered with pizza joints and sandwich places, late-night chicken and cheddar biscuits from Time-Out and cast-iron bowls dripping cheese from the Rathskellar’s lasagna, QVC host David Venable says.
The 4.5 million viewers of “In the Kitchen with David” hear Venable talk a lot about growing up in North Carolina. Chapel Hill was a big part of that, he said, which is why he’s returning this week as part of the show’s summer Road Trip series.
“(There are) just so many local, wonderful, interesting eateries in and around Chapel Hill that it made sense we would come here to bring our tour to a conclusion and really celebrate some of the great food I grew up on and some of the food that certainly influences the food I cook today,” he said.
The best-selling cookbook author and host of QVC’s top-rated show will broadcast live Wednesday from the top of the Wallace Parking Deck on East Rosemary Street. He’s expecting about a thousand people to join him, including Chapel Hill restaurateur Mildred “Mama Dip” Council.
A two-volume set of Council’s cookbooks, published by UNC Press and sold on QVC for years, will return for the show, he said.
The broadcast wraps up a monthlong, virtual tour of the best viewer-nominated local restaurants in college towns around the country. The series profiles winning viewers, restaurants and recipes based on their best dishes. It went last year to Buffalo, N.Y., and in 2013 to Ypsilanti, Mich.
Venable also will promote his book, “Back Around the Table,” during a book signing Tuesday at the Root Cellar restaurant, 752 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. Flyleaf Books is hosting the event, he said, and Root Cellar staff will make recipes from the book to share.
Venable, a Charlotte native, learned to cook as the youngest of three children raised by a single, working mother. While the women in his life made “really marvelous Southern comfort food,” he said, he’s also learned that comfort food “is wherever you come from, the food that you grew up with and the food that you hope to come home to again.”
“I used to love (my mother’s) beef pot roast on Sunday with fresh green beans from the garden and she made these mayonnaise drop biscuits that would melt in your mouth. I remember cleaning my plate with those biscuits, with all the leftover gravy and whatnot,” he said. “My grandmother’s chicken and dumplings are something I can still smell when I think back to my time in her kitchen.”
Venable arrived in Chapel Hill in 1983, as a broadcast journalism student in UNC’s radio, television and motion pictures department and member of the Clef Hangers accapella group. He worked after college as a TV news anchor and reporter before joining QVC in 1993. He took over “In the Kitchen” from the previous host in 2008.
While he was hired to sell many different products, he became one of the network’s food experts, Venable said. He learns about cooking with the viewers, he said, while relaying the most important information about the products they are selling.
“It’s been a really wonderful opportunity for me to put my own handprint on the show and really celebrate this love of great food and really the camaraderie that comes with cooking,” he said. “I find the whole aspect to be so social and joyful, and I think that’s something that resonates with our customers.”
The crews behind “In the Kitchen with David” started arriving this weekend to scope out the area around the Wallace Parking Deck, set up for the show and shoot footage around town that “give a little taste and flavor of Chapel Hill,” he said.
Food is a shared experience, Venable said, and he’s thrilled to be able to share his memories of the town with so many people.
“This is a great chance for them to see where I went to college, see some of the great food that influenced some of my early eating and, now, cooking as an adult,” he said. “It’s a fun way to kind of bring all those things together.”
David Venable will broadcast his show, “In the Kitchen with David,” from 8 to 10 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 5, from the rooftop of the Wallace Parking Deck on East Rosemary Street. Information about the show is available at qvc.tix.com.
Free tickets to the event sold out last week, but Venable also will hold a book signing event from 6 to 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Root Cellar, 752 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. His latest book, “Back Around the Table,” will be for sale next door at Flyleaf Books.