Chef Kevin Lee knew 2022 was going to be an important year, and confirmation arrives Sunday night when he appears on a new Food Network cooking competition.
The longtime executive chef at Vast and corporate chef for The Social Order Dining Collective was already working daily on opening his first restaurant, but last week he got confirmation the segment he shot last summer of “Alex vs. America” would air this weekend.
“Alex vs. America” is a new program, combining elements of Food Network hit shows “Chopped” and “Beat Bobby Flay.”
Chef Alex Guarnaschelli, who is no stranger to Oklahoma City, is the star of the show, taking on chefs from around the country in weekly mystery-basket cooking competitions with a $15,000 prize at stake.
Hosted by chef Eric Adjepong, “Alex vs. America” airs at 9 p.m. Sunday on Food Network with episodes available on demand via Discovery+. Guarnaschelli, a frequent “Chopped” judge and an Iron Chef. The executive chef at Butter in New York City, Guarnaschelli visited Oklahoma City in 2014 to help judge The Tree Bank’s annual Tree to Table cooking competition and fundraiser.
In the premiere episode, chefs from Hawaii, Louisiana and Maine challenged Guarnaschelli in a shellfish challenge. She walked away the winner.
On Lee’s episode, he takes on chefs from Georgia and Texas, as well as Guarnaschelli, before judges Cara Nicoletti and Michael Voltaggio.
This is far from Lee’s first made-for-TV cooking rodeo. He won big on “Guy’s Grocery Games” in a beef battle then returned for another competition. The former Oklahoma Restaurant Association Culinary Cookoff champion also appeared on the Food Channel’s “Cheap Eats.”
Oklahoma chefs have made numerous appearances on national cooking competition broadcasts since chef Tabb Singleton of Phat Tabb’s BBQ in Idabel first took home top prize from “Chopped” back in 2012.
Most recently, chef Jonathon Stranger of Osteria, Bar Cicchetti, won for a second time on “Guy’s Grocery Games.”
Lee, 35, was chosen for his past mastery of cooking beef, but his first sole-ownership concept will run a-fowl. Birdie’s Fried Chicken will specialize in Korean-style fried chicken and house-made biscuits with full dining and bar service.
Should he fare well against Guarnaschelli, Lee might have to come up with a beef feature to commemorate the occasion. Look for Lee to have an answer by the time Birdie’s takes flight, which he estimates will be first week of April.
Hacienda Tacos owner Robby Vernon has decided to host a watch party on behalf of Lee on Sunday at the Midtown location, 1120 N Classen Dr., in the Plaza Court.
“Show up between 8 and 8:30, and I’ll have some surprises,” Vernon said. “I saw Kevin on there last week (his image is included in the show’s opening montage) and called him up about having a watch party. I just think it’s really cool, and wanted to do something to support our local chefs and restaurants.”