Juliette Flenoury an unsung star in Birmingham’s food scene

Juliette Flenoury an unsung star in Birmingham’s food scene
Juliette Flenoury makes a batch of the corn pones that kept diners at the Mountain Brook Club happy for more than 40 years. (contributed)

Juliette Flenoury grew up in Birmingham’s historic Fountain Heights neighborhood, and as a child she cooked alongside her mother. Before she was even a teenager, Flenoury was honing her skills, baking cookies and gathering fans among friends and family.

She began her first food-industry job working at the Greyhound Bus Station in downtown Birmingham. By day, she worked as a cashier, and at night, she cooked foods for the daily menu at the cafeteria in the bus terminal.

Flenoury left the bus station job to cook at the Mountain Brook Club, where she remained for 43 years.

“I started cooking and baking cookies at 11 years old with my mother in her kitchen at home,” Flenoury said. “After cooking passionately for most of my life, I am best known for my corn pones, fried chicken, cornbread dressing, chicken potpies, greens and many other selections of Southern cuisine.”

She also makes exceptional Belgian waffles; her cookies and cakes are legendary; but her corn pones, especially, are delicious little works of art. Watching her make them is art in motion.

Juliette Flenoury is an unsung Alabama food star who makes corn pones an art form from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

Flenoury expertly mixes her corn pone batter, relying on how it feels in order to make sure it’s the right consistency. Then she runs her extra-large spoon over the smooth surface, curling the soft mixture into a quenelle and deftly tipping it onto her baking sheet. Most chefs need two spoons to create these perfectly elliptical shapes, but Flenoury does it with only one and most times not even looking too closely.

Becky Satterfield, a pastry chef and owner of Satterfield’s and El ZunZun restaurants, said of Flenoury’s corn pone making, “I kept telling her, this is a lost art.

“They’re just amazing. That was definitely a star in her crown, but she fried chicken beautifully, she made anything just perfectly. She had a lot of finesse in every single thing.”

Satterfield hosted a gathering of Les Dames d’Escoffier of Birmingham – a philanthropic organization of women leaders in food, beverage and hospitality – in which Flenoury demonstrated how to make corn pones. The two collaborated on one of the club’s favorite lunches, “The Businessman’s Special,” which featured mounds of collard greens and black-eyed peas, with corn pones nestled on them and onion circles topping off the dish.

“It was wonderful,” Satterfield said.

Satterfield said of Flenoury’s long cooking career, “I don’t think she really realized the impact that she made.

“She was such an expert and took that lightly, too,” Satterfield said. “She trained professional chefs also. They would come over to the club and take a lesson, because they found out this lady knew what she was doing.”

Flenoury retired from the Mountain Brook Club several years ago. She has spent some of her time since retirement cooking for family and friends; making gift baskets; listening to gospel music; taking care of elderly neighbors; and volunteering for Christian Service Mission when that organization needed her help cooking for the homeless and for student interns visiting Birmingham from various colleges.

During Black History Month, Alabama NewsCenter is celebrating the culture and contributions of those who have shaped our state and those working to elevate Alabama today. Visit AlabamaNewsCenter.com throughout the month for stories of Alabamians past and present.

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