Nashville native Emily Frith, known for bringing gourmet to greater Nashville when she and her husband, Jim, owned and operated the Corner Market from 1988 to 2002, is now cooking for crowds through the Corner Market Catering Company. Open since 2007, the Corner Market Catering Company is known for their gumbo, gazpacho, chicken croquettes and of course, their Toasted Sesame Vinaigrette dressing. Besides catering, the company sells soups, salads, desserts and more at their retail location, 850 Hillwood Blvd.
Q: What makes Nashville unique in terms of food?
A: It’s funny with all of these young new chefs who have just discovered this part of Nashville that’s really been here for 200 years. I learned it from my mother and my grandmother and her live-in maid, Laura Miles, who really taught me how to cook. They lived on farms. They killed their own chickens and their own pigs. The Nashville I grew up in was known for that. I grew up on grits–I didn’t know what a bagel was until I was in high school. I don’t think we had a sushi bar until Lamar Alexander brought in Nissan. People were into nouvelle cuisine, and Nashville was just here. And now you have all of these people with the biscuits and country ham and prosciutto, like they’re breaking new ground.
Q: What does Nashville order for parties?
A: Everybody wants Southern—Bourbon bars and boots—that seems to be where the parties are. They’re more informal. We’re not using as much silver. Rustic is big, and the food sort of follows that. Sweet potato biscuit with country ham and praline mustard is one of our biggest sellers. We make jalapeno cornbread squares and put pimento cheese on it—it’s kind of spicy, and that has been really good.
Q: Are there food trends you like?
A: I love this move toward local and trying to buy and eat everything as close to home as you can. I love that—especially in the summer. That’s happening all over the country, but I love seeing that happen here.
Q: Where do you go for new recipe ideas?
A: I go online. I grab books, and I do have my favorites. I’ve worn through three Silver Palate Cookbooks. We love Anne Byrn’s Cake Mix Doctor cookbook. My mom was on the original committee to put together the first Nashville Seasons cookbook in the 1960s, and I love that one. I love the Greens Cook Book from San Francisco, and I love Chez Panisse. As for new books, I love the Barefoot Contessa cookbooks and all of Frank Stitt’s books.
Q: What do you love eating?
A: I think a really good piece of Roquefort is one of the best things you can ever taste. I love sauteed soft-shell crab that I’ve soaked in buttermilk. I love really good fish, so about twice a month I run over to Whole Foods and get a beautiful piece of grouper or whatever really attracts me. I’ll pay way too much on fish and then enjoy every bite of it. The other thing I really love is caramels. Walker Creek makes a bourbon caramel that is unbelievable.
Q: Are any recipes too difficult?
A: I think so. One time I made these hard-boiled eggs with consommé over it for a brunch, and I made the consommé from scratch. It was gorgeous, and nobody ate it. They were like, “Ooh, eggs in jello,” and it was the hardest thing I had ever made.
Q: Is there a restaurant Nashville doesn’t have?
A: I’m still looking for the perfect French bistro that’s not overdone. Maybe it’s here, and I don’t even know it yet.
Q: What do you do when you’re not in the kitchen?
A: I like piddling in my yard. I have an herb garden in Monteagle where we spend the summers. I don’t mind mowing the grass and weeding and trimming the hedge—I like doing that stuff.
To learn more about The Corner Market Catering Company and see their menu, visit: www.cornermarketcatering.com.
By Fronda Alley, a Nashville native and writer.
Click below for Emily’s Curried Squash Soup