Biloxi chef’s brunch dish wins ‘Alex vs. America’ on Food Network. ‘I would marry this.’
A Biloxi chef dubbed “Mr. Fancy Pants” by Alex Guarnaschelli came back from the bottom to win a $15,000 prize on Sunday’s episode of “Alex vs. America.”
Austin Sumrall, owner of White Pillars Restaurant and Lounge, wowed judges Adrienne Cheatham and “Top Chef” winner Kelsey Barnard Clark with his signature brunch dish, grits and grillades.
“I’m definitely getting farm vibes,” Cheatham said after her first bite.
“I would marry this,” Clark commented.
Sumrall’s grits and grillades are regularly featured on the White Pillars brunch menu and are sometimes offered during the popular drag brunch he and his wife, Tresse, host every month.
He added cherry tomatoes, sauteed oyster mushrooms and a gremolata to his final dish, beating out Chef Tam from Tennesse and Guarnaschelli herself.
“The farm I grew up on, oyster foraging was a big part of it,” he said. “It just makes me feel like home.”
Sumrall’s face lit up when “Alex vs. America” hose Eric Adjepong said the chef who won was from “M-I-S-S-I-S-S-I-P-P-I.”
“It’s a privilege and an honor to beat Alex,” who is world-renowned chef and Iron Chef, Sumrall told the camera.
Grits were a redemption song for Biloxi chef
Sumrall’s win was a redemption song after the first round of the show where he was almost sent home.
The then-three contestants and Guarnaschelli chose to make cornbread from scratch and fresh okra as part of a Southern comfort plate fit for a picnic.
Sumrall made chicken fried chicken, stone ground grits, fried okra with a white barbecue sauce and collard greens. It was his take on a meat and three plate, and he cut the okra in spheres like his mother used to make.
Cheatham and Clark praised Sumrall’s chicken and cornbread, but they said the grits needed more seasoning.
Guarnaschelli, who gave Sumrall his nickname based on his culinary presentation, said that Sumrall’s plating didn’t look like a picnic but was impressed with his sauce.
“I can already hear Alex saying it’s too fancy,” Sumrall told the cameras. “It’s just not my style to plate on some paper.”
His decision “like a crazy person,” he said, to cook grits again paid off.
“Alex vs. America” pits Guarnaschelli against three top chefs from across the U.S. to make dishes based on a certain type of cuisine. Sumrall appeared on the Southern Comfort episode.
“It doesn’t get more Southern than me,” Sumrall told the cameras.
The Sumralls hosted a watch party for friends and family at White Pillars on Sunday night. The crowd whistled and cheered, celebrating Sumrall’s win with hugs, craft cocktails and sampling the dishes he made for the show.