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Helen Corbitt

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Helen Corbitt
Born(1906-01-25)January 25, 1906[1]
DiedJanuary 16, 1978(1978-01-16) (aged 71)[2]
Dallas, Texas, US
Alma materSkidmore College
Occupation(s)Author, Chef
Years active1925–1976
EmployerNeiman Marcus (1955–1975)

Helen Corbitt (1906–1978) was an American chef and cookbook author. Corbitt was born in New York but spent nearly 40 years in Texas promoting gourmet cuisine with new and unusual flavor combinations and serving temperatures. She traveled widely searching for new culinary inspiration. She was an early advocate of using the finest, freshest ingredients.


She moved to Austin in 1931 from her job as dietitian at Cornell Medical Center in New York City to become an instructor and manage the tearoom at the University of Texas.[3] She was lured to the Houston Country Club[4] before operating the tearoom at Joske's department store in Houston and had started her own catering business when the Driskill Hotel called her back to Austin.

The Neiman Marcus Kitchen Computer offered in 1969 with Corbitt's recipes

In 1955, after being courted by Stanley Marcus for eight years, she joined Neiman-Marcus as Director of Food Services.[5] Several of her recipes are still on the department store's menu, including her famous Poppy Seed Dressing. In the 1969 edition of its famously extravagant Christmas catalog, Neiman-Marcus advertised the Neiman Marcus Kitchen Computer, the first computer ever offered as a consumer product, with an option to purchase collections of Corbitt's recipes for use with the device.[6][7][8] Corbitt left Neiman-Marcus in late 1969 to write, teach, and consult.[3]


Corbitt authored numerous cookbooks and was the first woman to receive the Golden Plate Award, the highest honor in the food business.[9] In 1969, she was presented the Outstanding Service Award by the Texas Restaurant Association for "her inestimable contributions" to the food service industry.[5] A 1975 profile by the Chicago Tribune described Corbitt as "the Balenciaga of food and the best cook in Texas".[10] In December 1999, Texas Monthly declared Corbitt to be the "Tastemaker of the Century".[11] In 2009, the Los Angeles Times described her as "the Julia Child-esque cooking celebrity with a Texas twang".[12]


  1. ^ "Social Security Death Index". RootsWeb. Retrieved March 8, 2011.
  2. ^ "Helen Corbitt". The New York Times. New York, NY. January 18, 1978. Retrieved March 8, 2011.
  3. ^ a b Sharp, Patricia (June 24, 2011). "The House That Helen Built". The Alcalde. Texas Exes. Retrieved August 16, 2013.
  4. ^ Wilson, Karl (August 21, 1953). "It Happened Last Night". St. Petersburg Times. St. Petersburg, FL. Retrieved March 7, 2011.
  5. ^ a b "Helen Corbitt presented 'Outstanding Service Award'". Mid-Cities Daily News. Hurst, TX. June 30, 1969. Retrieved March 7, 2011.
  6. ^ Spicer, Dag (August 12, 2000). "If You Can't Stand the Coding, Stay Out of the Kitchen: Three Chapters in the History of Home Automation". Dr. Dobb's Journal. Retrieved August 16, 2013.
  7. ^ Atkinson, Paul (June 2010). "The Curious Case of the Kitchen Computer: Products and Non-Products in Design History". Journal of Design History. 23 (2): 163–179. doi:10.1093/jdh/epq010.
  8. ^ Chadwick, Susan (December 1985). "The His and Her Gift". Texas Monthly. p. 147. Retrieved August 16, 2013.
  9. ^ Abram, Lynwood (November 5, 2000). "The Tallest Texans: From Politics, science, the arts, sports and business, here are 100 Tall Texans who left their mark on Texas and the rest of the world in the 20th century". Houston Chronicle. Houston, TX. Retrieved March 7, 2011.
  10. ^ Will, Joanne (May 15, 1975). "VIP Cook". Chicago Tribune. p. S30. Retrieved March 8, 2011.
  11. ^ Mackintosh, Prudence (December 1999). "Tastemaker of the Century—Helen Corbitt". Texas Monthly. Retrieved August 16, 2013.
  12. ^ Garbee, Jenn (October 21, 2009). "PLAY DOUGH; Monkey bread, a pull-apart loaf, can be sweet, savory or just plain buttery". Los Angeles Times. p. E1. Retrieved March 8, 2011.

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