Chef, food writer, spice-blender and commercially-rated pilot Belinda Smith-Sullivan will make a stop in the Camel City this weekend as part of Bookmarks’ 15th annual Festival of Books and Authors. Two events will feature conversations about her new book, Just Peachy, published by Gibbs Smith and plenty of parleying about peaches.

The prolific Smith-Sullivan has a culinary arts degree from Johnson & Wales University and writes a monthly column for both South Carolina Living and Bella magazines. She also is a member of the Southern Foodways Alliance, International Association of Culinary Professionals, American Culinary Federation and Les Dames d’Escoffier. And yes, she is a commercially-rated pilot.

And as the granddaughter of Mississippi sharecroppers, Smith-Sullivan is the go-to resource for everything peaches. She lives in Trenton, SC, in the heart of the Palmetto State’s peach country.

Just Peachy has 70 recipes for breads, breakfasts, appetizers, soups and salads, entrées, desserts, peach pies, sauces, preserves and condiments and drinks.

How did you get into cooking?

Over the years I had been experimenting with writing, collecting and archiving my own peach recipes. After my husband and I found our retirement community in South Carolina, he reminded me that I always said I wanted to go to culinary school. I called up Johnson & Wales [in Charlotte], enrolled and the rest is history. Only 5 percent of chefs work in restaurants. I knew I didn’t want to do that.

Why peaches?

I started this personal-chef business, but this peach thing kept nagging me. I looked for a peach cookbook and there wasn’t one. I sought out an agent, went directly to publishers and no one would work with me. I didn’t fit the mold. I was an unknown. During that time I became a regular contributor to South Carolina Magazine, built a blog, and met an agent through a friend. The agent said, “I’ll take a chance on you.”

When you’re not working, what are you doing?

My first job out of college, I was a stewardess. I met David Harris, the first African-American commercial pilot in the US as part of our flight crew. I’d sit in the jump seat and just stare at him in awe. I got my private certificate, instrument rating, commercial rating and now I am a certified flight instructor. To get that last one, I received an Amelia Earhart Memorial Scholarship through the Ninety-Nines [International Organization of Women Pilots]. I have my own plane; it’s in my backyard, a Beachcraft Sierra.

What is your favorite recipe in the book?

The peach coconut cake is a sentimental favorite. It was my mother’s favorite cake. Every year I gather the ingredients, intent on making the cake for her birthday, but I get too emotional and don’t do it. I am going to try to make the cake on a date that is nowhere near her birthday even though that is the only time of year we got to eat this wonderful goodness.

What is in store for you in the future?

My plate is so full, I’m about to burst. I want to continue to grow my spice business, write more cookbooks.

Want to meet her?

  • Friday @ 10 a.m. @ Dewey’s Bakery, Thruway Shopping Center
  • Saturday @ 3 p.m. @ Bookmarks Breezeway, downtown Winston-Salem

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