by Kathy Witt
A Duchess, a baker, a plantation history maker: Meet this coterie of capable ladies of the river, including a duchess defined by her all-suite staterooms; a nationally known chef who has cooked for the likes of Mick Jagger, Lily Tomlin and Shirley MacLaine; and a Louisiana rebel who saved the history of the Creole plantation that bears her name. You’ll find them all on the waters or near the shores of the mighty Mississippi.
Some might say that celebrity chef Regina Charboneau is Southern as a biscuit. Calling herself a “such a product of her parents,” Charboneau credits their opening the family home to all as a way of life for her penchant for genuine hospitality.
A seventh-generation Natchezean, this Mississippi maven, famous for her savory, sumptuously stratified butter biscuit recipe, has gracious hospitality stamped in her DNA. Charboneau weekly opens her nearly 190-year-old Natchez mansion-home named Twin Oaks to passengers coming ashore from American Queen Steamboat Company riverboats.
“I really enjoy people, feel like I really get to know them,” she says.
Charboneau’s culinary pedigree includes working as a camp cook in the Alaskan bush, opening award-winning restaurants in San Francisco, serving as culinary director of the Duchess’ big sister, American Queen, hosting cooking class weekends and authoring several cookbooks, including Mississippi Current Cookbook: A Culinary Journey Down America’s Greatest River.
On the “Inside Regina’s Kitchen” premium excursion, guests are ushered into Charboneau’s living room (some even wander upstairs, at the chef’s invitation, to poke about the abundance of antiques and art) for a mid-morning or afternoon of hands-on biscuit making and getting acquainted. Guests are also treated to refreshments and small bites, like chicken pot pie and eggnog ice cream – wherever Charboneau’s culinary whims take her – while gathered round her 18-seat family table.
Nearby at the chef’s atmospheric and reputedly haunted King’s Tavern – a restaurant tucked into the oldest building in Natchez and one featured on TV’s Ghost Adventures – visitors may opt to try a wood-fired flatbread, including the peppered brisket, plated more than 10,000 times, and counting. Or try a tipple at the Charboneau Distillery next door, owned and operated by Charboneau’s son, Jean-Luc. The distillery has the distinction of being the site of the first legally distilled rum produced in Mississippi. Not to be missed is the coffee-flavored rum, a jolt of smooth deliciousness.
Plan Your Travels
With a chef famous for a biscuit recipe living and baking in its midst, it makes sense that Natchez – Chef Regina Charboneau’s hometown – is the Biscuit Capital of the World. Not only that, it is also the site of an annual Biscuit Festival. Expanded to include the Southern Song Writers Summit, the festival takes place – with biscuit tastings, biscuit cook-offs, music by guest songwriters and more – at the Natchez Farmers Market in Biscuit Alley on Saturday, Sept. 28, in 2019. Note: This May Charboneau is opening Regina’s Kitchen Cooking School and Regina’s Rind and Vine, a wine and cheese bar, in downtown Natchez.
<Regina>Natchez, Miss. Chef Regina Charboneau is well known for her highly coveted biscuit recipe.
Photo: Kathy Witt
<kitchen>Guests on American Queen Steamboat’s Regina’s Kitchen tour are free to explore the kitchen – and the entire house.
Photo: Kathy Witt
<garden>A peek into the garden at Regina Charboneau’s Twin Oaks from the solarium.
Photo: Kathy Witt