From left are Suzette Wagner, Albany native and Food Network star Paula Deen, and Amy Martin at Deen’s home in Savannah.
ALBANY, Ga. -- Warning: Spend 10 minutes talking to the Dupuy sisters -- Suzette Dupuy Wagner and Amy Dupuy Martin -- and you'll fall in love.
Not the kind of love that will get you a beat-down from their husbands, but the feel-good kind of love that you have for people who never meet a stranger and never let anything stand in the way of a good time.
The sisters -- known around town, on their popular blog and soon to be worldwide as the Sweet and Savory Sisters -- have appeared with foodie superduperstar Paula Deen on her wildly popular Food Network show three times and counting, and they'll head out with Paula and their mom, Susan Dupuy of Leesburg, one of Deen's long-time BFFs, on a celebrity cruise in January.
Suzette, the quiet one ... the same way a car alarm is quiet, is owner/manager of Wagner's Barbecue on Dawson Road, while Amy's "real job" is with Easter Seals. In their spare time -- meaning the time they're not at their real jobs -- the sisters cook up their scrumptious Cajun- and Southern-flavored recipes, scoop up gallons of that famous Wagner's sweet tea and cook enough Sisters' pound cakes to feed an army for catering gigs.
"The Commodores ain't got nothing on us 'cause our recipes are easy like a Sunday morning," Suzette says. "And even if we don't know what we're doing, we'll fake it 'til we make it."
Susan Dupuy, who grew up in Smithville, spent plenty of time in the kitchen creating Southern-style delicacies with Deen when the two were younger, while the sisters' dad, Bob Dupuy, passed on the spice of the Louisiana bayou. With those major influences -- and we can't forget the "Bayou Babes' Coon-Ass Favorites" of Ma-Ma Hazel in Marksville, La. -- it was a given that the Dupuy sisters would spend a lot of time in the kitchen.
"We didn't hardly have two nickels to rub together, but there was always food and people over to our house when we were growing up," Amy says. "We'd have '70s music going -- Al Green, Elvis or Zydeco -- and everyone would eat and kick up a little dust."
Susan always made Suzette take her (five years) younger sister with her when Suzette and her friends went out, and for years things were neither sweet nor savory between the Dupuy girls. But that changed "about the time Amy hit 12 or 13," and the two have been inseparable since.
In fact, they were founding members of the "Pack of Wolves," a group of local girls that always had each others' backs.
"We've been friends, well, actually more like sisters, for 26 years now, and things are exactly the same as they've always been," nurse Tracey Hodges said of the bond among the group. "Through marriages, divorces, deaths, children and college degrees, it's always been the same.
"Those two are absolutely amazing when it comes to cooking; that's what they were born to do. They have a desire in them to feed people and see them smile."
After the sisters honed their abundant culinary skills, they jokingly told their mom she should talk to Deen about having them on her hit show. When they got a call from New York telling them to come to Savannah for a taping a little over a year and a half ago, they were initially stunned.
But you can't hold the Sweet and Savory Sisters back.
"I'm always nervous when I have to get in front of a crowd and speak, so I was a little unsure about being on TV," Amy said of that initial taping. "But, man, once I got in there and put that headset on and looked at that camera, I found out I liked it.
"I had my glasses on, and the lights in the studio were shining off them, so they asked me if I wore contacts. I told them I'd get lasik surgery if that's what they wanted me to do."
The sisters made plantation grits on their first visit with Paula, and the dish -- as well as the sisters -- were such a hit they were called back for a second helping. They made crawfish bread the second go-around and recently finished taping a Christmas episode featuring their rice dressing.
"After we finished the second show, Paula told us to write a cookbook," Amy said. "We were both working two jobs and didn't have a whole lot of time, but every time we'd get a little down I'd tell Suzette to think about how hard Miss Paula used to work at her cooking. I told her, 'If she can do it, we can do it.'"
With Amy putting together most of the ingredients and Suzette doing the writing, the sisters recently completed "Southern Grazing and Bayou Blazing with the Sweet and Savory Sisters." They present a copy of the book, not yet available to the public, to Deen on the Christmas taping.
The cookbook is definitely not like anything else on the shelves of Southern cooks.
"We've got a chapter called 'Menopause, Midlife Crisis, PMS and Just the Munchies,'" Suzette says with a laugh. "It's got recipes for people putting up with any of those things. We asked people to send us some of their recipes on our blog, and we got stuff like a peanut butter/Captain Crunch milkshake, red velvet pancakes with cream sauce and pimento cheese grits.
"We mix that chapter in with some of the Cajun and Southern recipes we've created over the years."
Before the sisters take their specialties on the road with Deen in January, they're doing a first this weekend. They're among the dozens of vendors, albeit the only one serving Cajun food, at the three-day Georgia Showdown.
"We've never done anything like this, and, frankly, we were so busy we kind of forgot about the festival for a while," Amy said. "But somebody said something about it on Facebook, and we started wishing we'd done a booth. We decided to call and check on the possibility, and we called on the last day they were taking new concession vendors.
The Savory Sisters will serve up dinners of red beans and rice, chicken and sausage gumbo, etouffee and "light bread to sop it up with" at the festival. And, yes, there will be pound cake for dessert.
"We've actually got friends who bought tickets to the festival just so they can hang out and eat with us," Amy says.
Next on the radar for the sisters? That cruise with Susan and Paula Deen to Honduras, Cazumel and Beliz. No doubt, they'll be ready.
"We've got to get our passports," Suzette says. "Then I guess it's just a matter of losing some weight and winging it. Put on Journey's 'Don't Stop Believing' and just get out of the way. We'll take it from there."