Mildred “Mama Dip” Council, Chapel Hill resident and founder of Mama Dip’s Kitchen at 408 W. Rosemary St., passed away Sunday at age 89 after a period of illness.
Mildred Council was born in 1929 and lived on a farm in Chatham County, N.C. She was the youngest of seven and nicknamed “Dip” by her family members due to her tall stature and her ability to “dip” into the rain barrels to get water. She worked at a number of places, including the Carolina Inn and different UNC fraternities, before she later started her own restaurant in 1976 with only $64.
Originally named Dip’s Country Kitchen, Council focused on serving Southern comfort food. The nickname “Mama Dip” was coined by basketball players Michael Jordan and James Worthy in the 1980s after they heard her children call her “Mama” in the kitchen. Mama Dip’s became a staple restaurant in the area and was featured in a 1985 New York Times article on Southern cuisine in North Carolina, where it was described as a “genuine, no-frills restaurant.”
“Mama Dip was one of the most humble people I have probably ever met,” said Johnny Cooper, a longtime server at Mama Dip’s.
Cooper said he regularly brought customers into the kitchen to speak with Mildred, who was instantly able to laugh and connect with them. He remembered one day when he introduced her to someone who had come all the way from California who said he was excited to be meeting a celebrity.