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Food Network Star Exit Interview: Josh Lyons

Food Network Star Josh LyonsJosh Lyons, 42 (Jupiter, Fla.), has an affinity for food, music and entertaining. After spending years in a rock band and working in restaurants, Josh decided to go to culinary school and loved every minute of it. He is an experienced sushi chef and restaurant consultant, with an expertise in creating unexpected Asian fusion dishes. This multi-talented chef still writes and performs with his band and also has a passion for photography.

Josh  was the first member of Team Giada to say goodbye.  Some may argue that it happened three weeks too late.  Josh didn’t have the best of runs on FNS this year but in light of past seasons it really wasn’t that bad.

To be perfectly honest, in other years his performance would have been no worse than middle of the road.  That’s a testament to just how talented this year’s cast is and because of that you really have to feel for him.  He’s a great guy but it just didn’t seem to come out with the game on the line.

Josh was back home in South Florida today when I caught him between slinging sushi and jamming with his band Fell on Deaf Ears.

How did you occupy your time after elimination?

I spent the remaining time just venturing out into Brooklyn and Manhattan.   I have family that live in the city so I took advantage to spend as much time with them as possible, my nephews and my sister.

Which cast members are you still friends with?

I am really tight with Emily.  And Ippy, Eric, and Christi, and Justin.  I probably speak to all them very consistently.  Especially Emily because she’s only about two and a half hours from me.  I’m a little further south close to Miami and she’s in Orlando.  We actually hooked up a couple of weeks ago and went to the Jane’s Addiction concert.

What’s the number one thing you have taken away from your experience on Food Network Star?

It was definitely an eye-opener as to what I need to concentrate on for myself as an individual.  It was a window for me having to work on my confidence and self-worth and also to make sure that I eat properly and get enough sleep.  I do not function right when I do not eat and I don’t sleep.

One thing that kind of bothered me was the constant comparisons between music and TV chef.  It’s really very, very different.  With my music I have time to rehearse, practice and I have guys that I trust behind me.  We reinforce our sound and our music.  Where this was kind of an unrealistic environment.

What’s your current project?

I am currently involved in opening up a restaurant down here in West Palm Beach it’s a contemporary Asian fusion restaurant called Fuku.  I’m also busy with my album release, you know getting it out there, getting the video out there.  Aside from those I’m just working on marketing myself as a brand.

 

To keep up with what’s happening with Josh you can visit his web site (HERE).  Be sure to check out all of the Star Season 8 Exit Interviews HERE.

Saturdays in the South: Starkville, Mississippi

First published in Current Magazine in 2007. Since then Sly Croom has been shown the door making way for former Florida offensive coordinator, Dan Mullen to start things anew at MSU.

Starkville, Mississippi has long held a reputation as a town that time forgot, a real life Brigadoon. Mississippi State University has often been referred to as a cow college, after all Davis Wade Stadium (the second oldest stadium in the nation) is literally built in a pasture. However, hyperbole is rarely accurate. The reality is that Starkville is an old fashioned Southern town while at the same it is a diverse community of multiple cultures, a burgeoning technology hub, and best of all, few witnesses.

The city is cashing in on its classic Southern charm by attracting retirees from up north. Sure Yankees talk funny but they know a nice place to live when they see one (see Fairhope, AL). The heart of the boon in Oktibbeha County comes from the ever increasing role of the university established there in 1878. MSU is rumored to have a five acre marijuana farm they maintain for government testing which may be why it is the largest university in the state.

State’s accolades on the field of play encompass three major sports: basketball, baseball, and football. There is metered enthusiasm in Starkville this year about the football team which is coached by Alabama native Sylvester Croom. Old Sly is a veteran of the SEC having played and coached for the great Bear Bryant at Alabama. Ticket sales have already eclipsed the 2006 total and expectations are high in the area known as the Golden Triangle. Even a 45 – 0 pasting to start the season would do little to dampen spirits since football is merely an excuse to get loaded.

The heart of the MSU tailgating experience is “the Junction.” In the early days of State there was a train depot at the site; the railway is how students got to campus in the 19th century. After spending many years as a parking lot the area was redesigned by the landscaping firm Nimrod Long and Associates of Birmingham (no kidding, that is really their name) into what they call the “premier tailgate experience.”

NLA developed the Junction to capitalize on both it history and to accentuate the game day atmosphere. Cullis Wade Depot acts as a visitor’s center and houses a bookstore operated by Barnes and Noble (home of the only escalator in Starkville). The addition of lighted walkways through what is a giant open space helps to accentuate the most striking aspect of the park, co-eds.

Saturdays in Starkville see the Junction transformed from open green area to a sea of maroon as the Bulldog faithful prepare for another SEC showdown. It is here that the Famous Maroon Band starts their march to the stadium to the delight of inebriated fans. Regardless of the week’s opponent, the Maroon Nation focuses its collective hatred on one school, Ole Miss. As they say, “You can’t spell dumb without UM.” Pop-up tents and the perfume of booze create a carnival atmosphere as young and old break out their best recipes to please the masses. Chief among the fixin’s is Mississippi Blues Barbecue. An MSU tradition, it employs a sauce made with fresh blueberries and pairs well with anything containing alcohol, like sorority girls.

The most famous tradition associated with MSU sports hearkens back to the rural image of the school; it is the ubiquitous cowbell. Legal according to the NCAA but not so in the SEC, the cowbell is the badge of courage for every Bulldog and a bone of contention between MSU alum and the powers-that-be. The fact that they are the only school to have its tradition outlawed makes it that much more important to smuggle one into Scott Field. Bulldog faithful suggest wearing your cowbell like a codpiece, the cowbell Gestapo are not likely to check there. State fans vow they will sneak them in until the ban is lifted. It is a moral imperative and one of the few morals they actually employ.

After Jack Cristil has uttered his immortal words, “You can wrap it in maroon and white,” some fans stagger back to their tailgate sites. Others head to “the District” to get their party on. Chief among the haunts frequented by MSU faithful is The Little Dooey (100 Fellowship St.) home to some of the finest Delta style barbecue to be found. ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit once pronounced Dooey’s the best place to grub in all of college football. What’s not to love with lip smacking barbecue, smoked chicken salad, and the most infamous drink in Starvegas, the Pickled Pig (made in the Boar’s Head, Dooey’s bar).

Mugshots Grill and Bar (101 N. Douglas Conner St.) is the local favorite for both giant burgers and for watching the other games (especially rooting for whomever is playing Ole Miss). Mugshots’ bar will keep the brewskies coming which is handy for those wanting to work up the ‘nads to try one of their famous “peanut butter burgers.”

Dave’s Dark Horse Tavern (Hwy. 182 East) is a pantheon of pub grub with all (and we mean all) of your favorites like New York style pizza, Chicago style pizza, wings, and cold suds. Rick’s Cafe (Hwy. 182 East) has little in common with Humphrey Bogart, but rather resembles the world’s greatest rock and roll club, Bogart’s in Cincinnati. Rick’s is for those who like to party “Old School Nasty” and has $1 drinks on Saturdays. It is definitely the place to get your hair band fix. I believe it was Nietzsche who said, “Where there are hair bands there you will also find trashy bleached blondes with ample cleavage.”

Regardless of your tastes Starkville has something for you. Looking for great pizza and beer? Look no further than the Old Venice Pizza Company (110 E Main Street) they actually have an all pork pizza (andouille, pulled pork, & sausage). If you are craving wings and beer then visit Ravin‘ (1011 Louisville Street) whose menu features the spicy little nibbles as well as catfish, burgers, and appetizers of all sorts. For seafood and beer lovers try Remington’s Hunt Club (400 Hwy. 12 W) which features seafood baskets and some of the sauciest waitresses in the South. For early morning eats drag your hung-over butt to Shipley Do-nuts (418 Highway 12 E) for kolaches (a Central European pastry) and do-nuts. They do not serve beer at Shipley’s which creates a conundrum; what are you supposed to dunk the do-nuts in? I suggest dark rum.

Mississippi Blue Barbecue Sauce
Recipe Type: Sauce
Author: Stuart Reb Donald
Prep time: 15 mins
Cook time: 15 mins
Total time: 30 mins
Serves: 8
Ingredients
  • 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup minced onion
  • 1 tablespoon minced jalapeno chili
  • 1/4 cup catsup
  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
  • 2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries
Instructions
  1. Heat oil in a non-reactive saucepan. Add onions and chili and cook over moderate heat stirring until wilted, about 3 minutes. Add catsup, vinegar, sugar, mustard and Tabasco sauce and bring to a simmer. Add blueberries and simmer over low heat, stirring until thickened, about 10 minutes. Purée the sauce in a blender or processor until smooth. Pass through a strainer and season with salt and pepper. Use this sauce the same day it is made.

Saturdays in the South: Gainesville, Florida

First published in Current Magazine in 2007. Since this article was first printed UF has added both another SEC title and National Championship to the trophy case and QB Tim Tebow was been awarded the Heisman Trophy as college football’s best player.

Birthplace of Gatorade, Gainesville is also the home of the defending national champion Florida Gators. Of which sport you ask? Well, all of them. It seems that way anyhow. The Gators have won back-to-back NCAA basketball titles and took the same honor in football this past year. Though the round ball titles are snazzy it is on the gridiron that the Gator Nation butters its collective bread.

As an added bonus, the city of Gainesville was recently named the top city in America by Foddor’s in the 2007 “Cities – Ranked and Rated, Second Edition.” Yes, things are pretty rosy in Gator Town these days, and Florida Athletic Director Jeremy Foley has built a potent and prominent program right in the heart of it. Alma mater of 1966 Heisman Trophy winner Steve Spurrier, Lito Shepard, Emmitt Smith (NFL’s all-time leading rusher), Danny Wuerffel (1996 Heisman Trophy winner), and Chris Leak, the Gators have given fans a lot of happy memories, like say a pair of national titles and seven SEC crowns.

Tailgators surround Ben Hill Griffin Stadium (a.k.a. The Swamp) feasting on grilled gator sausage, burgers, and chicken and getting their “drunk” on. They have to feed their bravado as one of the great sports of UF tailgating is taunting fans from visiting schools with the familiar Gator Chomp arm gesture and screaming profanities. All that verbal abuse takes a lot of energy.

Among the 88,548 in attendance at the Swamp is Mr. “Two-Bits” George Edmondson. Two-Bits is a Gator fan from Tampa who stumbles from section to section leading the fans in the old cheer that goes, “Two bits, four bits, six bits, a dollar! All for the Gators stand up and holler!” Between the third and fourth quarters the Fightin’ Gator Marching Band plays “We Are the Boys from Old Florida,” as fans sing along while standing arm-in-arm, staggering left and right.

At first, grubbing in Gainesville might seem a little discouraging when a glance at the “Best of” poll from the Gainesville Today Magazine lists Domino’s Pizza as the winner for “best wings” and Sonny’s as the winner for “best BBQ.” So they don’t have good cue or wings, they do have some unbelievable local styles like pan-Latin and New Florida cuisine and virtually all of it is right by the Swamp.

Grog (University Ave.) is famous for two things – quarter pitchers of beer and being the favorite hangout of UF’s representatives in the “Girls of the SEC” issue of Playboy. Also on the ladies’ hit list is Club XS which is popular for its 80’s night. Leonardo’s 706 (W. University Ave.) is the place for Sunday brunch. Located just a short walk from the stadium, brunch is nothing short of phenomenal with over 25 handcrafted culinary creations to chose from. Plus it is a great place to ditch the older members of your party while you hunt for those Playboy Bunnies.

Emiliano’s Café (SE 1st Ave) puts Florida’s rich Latin community on display with zesty empanadas, ceviches, fried plantains, and luscious paellas. They also serve the most popular food craze in the country right now – the Cuban sandwich. Emiliano’s also offers traditional black beans, grilled filets, and terrific soups, but the can’t-miss recipe is the sizzling chipotle brownie cake.

Hogan’s “Great Sandwiches” (13th St.) opened in 1983 with the goal of providing the biggest sandwiches and the coldest beer. Hogan’s serves traditional subs like turkey, Pastrami, and ham but they also have higher end cold cuts like Proscuittini and Cappicola plus six cheeses to choose from. They make a pretty mean Cuban, too. Their menu consists of sandwiches, heroes, subs, and most importantly beer from 21 countries. Saturdays are Gator Day; wear a Gator T-Shirt & get .50¢ off all pitchers of beer.

Italian Gator Pizza (W University Ave.) is consistently Gainesville’s best slice. Don’t let the name fool you, there is no gator pizza on the menu. Their pizzas are tributes to the old New York tradition of little flash and quality ingredients. They use Grande mozzarella, the industry’s top brand, and their pies are fired in stone ovens, available by the slice or in 14” and 18” pies.

Kirk Herbstreit recently named Mark’s Prime Steakhouse (201 SE 2nd Ave. Suite 102) one of the ten best college eateries in the nation. Mark’s has a dedication to serving only the finest beef, freshest seafood, premium wines, and organic vegetables, blah, blah, blah – this place is best for impressing hot young redheads by buying them a dessert martini.

For those looking to get liquored up, Gainesville has a great bar scene with juke joints like 8 Seconds (W University Ave), a country themed bar that features $20 all-you-can-drink on Saturday nights. For posh surroundings there is 2Bits Lounge (SW 34th Street) which features a big screen TV and a pool table. Alley Gatorz (NE Waldo Rd) is a bowling alley, full service bar, and Gator shrine all in one with a daily Happy Hour from 3-7 that includes $1.00 drafts, $1.75 bottles $2.00 wells $5.00 pitchers $8.00 buckets (5 bottles).

Dugout Billiards (SW 2nd Ave) is a classic hangout with 13 pool tables, 3 TV’s, video games, 2 65″ TV’s, plus other arcade faves like foosball, darts, and air hockey. . . oh, yeah, and beer. Jewell’s Billiard Lounge (S Main Street) has been voted the “Hottest Staff in Gainesville” and understandably so – bar tenders and servers wear halter tops and Daisy Dukes so short they should be considered belts and none of the staff is bashfull about doing a little pole dance. With hundreds of gorgeous women and $3 Long Island Ice Teas on Saturdays, Jewell’s is also your best bet to see two (or more) chicks making out.

Diary of a Wannabe TV Chef – PT 5

This is the latest installment in a continuing series that documents my personal quest to become the host of my own cooking show. Since this is a relatively new “career,” there are no vocational programs or community college courses to prepare me for it. From what I have seen, the two most important elements in securing such a position are passion for food and plain old dumb luck. Born with a passion for food, I set out to make my own luck.

Significant Change

Lincoln, NESo the Fern Bar Chain offers me a job. I am to be the Kitchen Manager at their flagship store in the Mobile market. Perfect. The Kitchen Manager’s duties parallel the duties of an executive sous chef. This is a tremendous break. Although I am not exactly a fan of this particular chain, the money is good and opportunity is great.

By mid July of 2005, I have moved to a corporate apartment in Crestview, FL. Of the locations where I could train, this is the most convenient being only 100 miles from my home. Crestview is part of the Florida Panhandle that was stuck by Hurricane Ivan the summer before. The scars are still evident. The week before I report another tropical storm hits the area and I am greeted by $3.00 gas prices at a time when the national average is $1.79.

The town of Crestview is nothing special, a spot in the road on your way to some place more interesting. It is peculiar in one very big way. It appears that no one in this burg of some 14,000 people ever cooks. The Fern Bar is always busy as are the other restaurants in town. If I ever need to spend time alone all I have to do is go to the grocery store for I am the only one who buys fresh produce, meats, and breads. Everyone else is on the frozen food aisle.

Training goes well but on the first day I am informed that my assignment has changed and I will be transferred to Ocean Springs, MS when I am done with training and there I am to be the Bar Manager. Huh? Oh, well, Ocean Springs is only 45 minutes from Mobile and sure I will have to move but the location is nice. I find an apartment on the beach and begin making plans to relocate.

During week three of training I am informed that my assignment has changed again and I will heading back to Mobile when I am done, but to the “troubled” store, not the flagship. I am to be the Service Manager. What the hey? Before all is said and done my assignment will change locations five times in three different states only to end up at the store I originally applied for, but as the Service Manager not the Kitchen Manager. Corporations.

During the second month of my training Hurricane Katrina hits. I am safe and sound 100 miles east of the affected area while my friends and family are stranded without power, jobs, or gas. I am filled with remorse as I watch the news. New Orleans, a city that I love dearly, is flooded with water and hoodlums. The Mississippi Gulf Coast (the hardest hit area of Katrina) is utterly destroyed – CNN choppers record the memories of my early college years as they lie crushed and torn. My home town of Mobile is also hit, but as has been the case with the last five tropical maelstroms to hit the Gulf Coast in the past 14 months, it is back on its feet in just a few days. Still I am racked with guilt over my relative comfort while friends and family battle 95 degree weather without electricity or running water. I cannot wait for training to be over so that I can get home and help people out.

Part of my 10 week training with the Fern Bar is to visit the franchise headquarters in Lincoln, NE. A charming city that is the very embodiment of middle America. Talk about great steaks! I think I had some form of flame cooked beef carcass every day I was in town. During the week long seminar, I find myself slightly troubled by the words that the folks at the corporate office use, specifically they never refer to the restaurants as restaurants – they are all concepts.

Finally I return home to my storm ravaged hometown and begin work at the Fern Bar proper. Two days in and the promises made about employment are already being broken. The other managers are glad to see me because they have gone weeks without days off that did not include 140 mph winds. My addition to the staff means that they are now only one person shy of the required number of managers needed to run efficiently.

Each week working conditions become more stressful and the corporation turns a deaf ear to our needs. It is now that I found out how bad the company is that I have been employed by. Managers are leaving in droves from all of the area “concepts” for better jobs. Somehow several recruiting firms have gotten a hold of our cell phone numbers and are calling each of the managers three or four times a day with job offers. At one point the three store region, which is supposed to have a grand total of 14 managers and a regional director, is down to eight managers and no director. It is at this time that I, too, head for greener pastures.

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Stuart in 80 Words or Less

Stuart is a celebrity chef, food activist and award-winning food writer. He penned the cookbooks Third Coast Cuisine: Recipes of the Gulf of Mexico, No Sides Needed: 34 Recipes To Simplify Life and Amigeauxs - Mexican/Creole Fusion Cuisine. He hosts two Internet cooking shows "Everyday Gourmet" and "Little Grill Big Flavor." His recipes have been featured in Current, Lagniappe, Southern Tailgater, The Kitchen Hotline and on the Cooking Channel.

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Stuart’s Honors & Awards

2015 1st Place Luck of the Irish Cook-off
2015 4th Place Downtown Cajun Cook-off
2015 2nd Place Fins' Wings & Chili Cook-off
2014 2015 4th Place LA Gumbo Cook-off
2012 Taste Award nominee for best chef (web)
2012 Finalist in the Safeway Next Chef Contest
2011 Taste Award Nominee for Little Grill Big Flavor
2011, 12 Member: Council of Media Tastemakers
2011 Judge: 29th Chef's of the Coast Cook-off
2011 Judge: Dauphin Island Wing Cook-off
2011 Cooking Channel Perfect 3 Recipe Finalist
2011 Judge: Dauphin Island Gumbo Cook-off
2011 Culinary Hall of Fame Member
2010 Tasty Awards Judge
2010 Judge: Bayou La Batre Gumbo Cook-off
2010 Gourmand World Cookbook Award Nominee
2010 Chef2Chef Top 10 Best Food Blogs
2010 Denay's Top 10 Best Food Blogs
2009 2nd Place Bay Area Food Bank Chef Challenge
2008 Tava: Discovery Contest Runner-up

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