Homecooking With... Teryi Youngblood
As Chef de Cuisine at Passerelle Bistro in downtown Greenville, Teryi Youngblood spends a lot of time around top-notch fare. But there’s only one dish she finds impossible to resist: pecan pie. “If you put it in front of me, I will eat the whole thing,” she confesses. A former pastry chef of 13 years, Teryi has perfected the pecan pie, a centerpiece of her family’s holiday festivities.
The secret to Teryi’s recipe, she says, is the addition of bourbon and sorghum. Sorghum is a syrup pressed from sorghum cane with a taste in between molasses and cane syrup that has long been a Southern staple. The sorghum forms the basis for a gooey center balanced in each slice with the meaty crunch of pecans and buttery crust.
Also key are quality pecans, for which Teryi acquired an appreciation at a young age. At their childhood home in Easley, the family was surrounded by pecan trees. Getting them pie-ready, however, was no easy task. Their mother challenged Teryi and her sisters to gather and crack the most pecans by 3 pm and offered the winner a Snickers bar. The girls would race around the yard with buckets and eager fingers. Of course the Snickers reward was forgotten when a warm pecan pie emerged from the oven later in the day. Raised on pie that good, Teryi couldn’t remember to care whether it was pronounced PEE-can pie or pe-CAHN pie (she says both). The sisters loved pecans so much, the nuts would show up as treats in their stockings at Christmas.
“Christmas baking is humongous in our family,” Teryi says. Growing up she and her two sisters made every kind of cookie they could think up and delivered an assortment to teachers, neighbors and friends as gifts. Now on Christmas Day, the family gathers on the farm in Anderson where her mother raises hogs, goats, guinea hens and peacocks. Baking begins four days early to ensure the Christmas Day feast is unencumbered by work in the kitchen. They all contribute their best baked goods, and though Teryi is the professional chef in the family, it’s Teryi’s mother Nancy who is, as the sisters put it, “obsessed.”
Teryi has Nancy’s obsession to thank for getting her head start on a culinary path. Her mother taught her to break down a chicken before she was ten years old. Not merely practical, however, Nancy encouraged Teryi to take risks combining ingredients. Teryi remembers her friends begging to join their football tailgates and the “literal feasts” prepared every night when the family vacationed at the beach. She looked forward to “nine different kinds of mac and cheese” she knew awaited her at annual family reunions.
Now Teryi is passing along the same adventurous spirit to her own ten-yearold daughter Sophia Claire, who has been known to take advantage of the abundance of Passerelle’s pantry to experiment with her own creative concoctions. Most recently Sophia Claire baked a chocolate cake during the chaos of the restaurant’s popular Saturday brunch then dished it out to the servers and cooks.
Generations of Teryi’s family have been educated and initiated in the kitchen. To stand in her Fountain Inn home and taste a slice of the chef’s warm pecan pie is to appreciate for a moment what it means to be a part of her family at the holidays—so rich and comforting you’ll start to chew and want to hug everyone around you. It’s no wonder they all like each other so much.