Chapel Hill, NC — Mildred Cotton Council aka “Mama Dip, Chapel Hill’s and one of North Carolina’s most renowned and loved restaurateurs and chefs has died, a family friend said Monday. She passed away at UNC Hospital Sunday night.
Council, who turned 89 last month chef, was a philanthropist, a teacher, a business woman, cookbook author and a mother. She has spread her joy to those all over through her food and community engagements.
In 2016 Spectacular Magazine honored Mama Dip with the Spectacular Magazine 2016 Woman of the Year Award for Lifetime Achievement.
Mrs. Mildred Edna Cotton Council was born in Chatham County, North Carolina to Ed and Effie Edwards Cotton. She was one of seven children. Her mother passed away when she was about 2 years old, she was 34. Most of her childhood memories are of her Papa and her siblings. Her nickname “Dip” was given to her as a young girl because she was taller than most and could “dip” all the way to the bottom of the rain barrel.
Growing up was fun describes Mrs. Council. Despite not having much money, space, or sometimes food she learned that happiness and family are really what’s most important. So when she was around 9 years old and her father uttered the words “why don’t you make us something to eat” she instantly smiled. Typically one of her older siblings would cook, but today, it was her turn and she knew at that moment she had found her purpose.
She went on to marry and eventually took her talents to Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Chapel Hill was a dream fulfilled and then reality hit. Mrs. Council experienced grave racism when arriving.
One day she got on a city bus and tried to sit down and received funny looks. She walked further back and again attempted to sit down and received even dirtier looks. So she proceeded to the back of the bus and stood. This is one of the instances she describes as eye-opening from her somewhat sheltered upbringing.
In 1957 she began working on UNC’s campus in dormitories as a cook with her mother-in-law and never looked back. She began making a name for herself around town with her southern style of cooking and exquisite taste.
By her being known and respected she faced very little trouble in 1976 when she decided to open up her very own restaurant, Mama Dip’s. A realtor offered her the chance to take over a failed restaurant on Rosemary Street in Chapel Hill. With just enough food to get them through breakfast (about $40 worth) and $24 in change in the cash register. They opened their doors, made $135 the first day and have been open ever since. Mama Dip’s has become renowned over the past 40 years for their delicious soul food and down home style of cooking, now at the current location at 408 Rosemary Street, a building she had built in 1999.
She has written two noteworthy books: Mama Dip’s Kitchen and Mama Dip’s Family Cookbook. Her books share not only recipes, but also great stories about her life in food. Mama Dip has been featured on Good Morning America and on the Food Network’s Cooking Live. Craig Claiborne, a food critic for the New York Times, has written about the restaurant as well.
Mama Dip is a chef, a philanthropist, a teacher, a business woman, cookbook author and a mother. She has spread her joy to those all over through her community engagements. She would like everyone to earn an honest trade and is first in line to teach you how to do it and how to enjoy it. She has donated to NC Central University in efforts to make sure every student has books needed to succeed in their classes, visits the prison unit often in efforts to mentor those incarcerated and help them achieve a better lifestyle once released, and cares for local children all over Chapel Hill.
She has instilled all her cooking and life skills into her six children and grandchildren who will carry her amazing legacy on for years to come.
Arrangements are incomplete at the time.