Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Food Network Star winner says he owes his victory to his rural Kentucky roots

Jason Smith during the show finale
(Food Network photo by Zach Dilgard)
A school cafeteria manager from small-town Kentucky has won the Food Network Star cooking competition, and says he draws inspiration for his recipes from his rural roots. Jason Smith, 39, said in an interview with that his style of cooking is "country bling," meaning "I take old, dying country recipes, and I bring them back to life and make them modern, elevated and fancied up a little bit," the Kentucky Press News Service and the Lexington Herald-Leader report. As the contest's winner, Smith will get his own cooking show.

Smith faced off against two other finalists on the Aug. 13 finale of the 11-week cooking show before celebrity chefs Bobby Flay and Giada De Laurentiis announced him as the winner. He's no stranger to the channel, though: last year he won the Food Network's Holiday Baking Championship. The Laurel County native (who works for Carter County Schools) says he first learned to love cooking from his mother and grandmother.

On the show, Smith was known for his bold fashion and colorful country sayings. When he made a mountain berry compote with nuts and a molasses ginger mousse, he told others on the show that "My mountain berry dessert is so delicious, yo tongue will slap yo brains out," the Herald-Leader reports.

The show's runners and contestants loved his authenticity. "Something that struck a chord that I’ve heard Bobby, Giada and a lot of the other guests tell me a few times is, 'We really like him, because he is comfortable in his skin, he is true to himself, he is true to where he comes from,'" Smith said in a Food Network interview. "And Bobby and Giada have told me: 'Never lose that. Always tell those stories of Kentucky. Always be yourself, and you will be fine.' That’s something that I will always hold near and dear to my heart, because I am myself. I am just Jason. I’m not going to be anything else but what I am."

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