Submitted by Flora-Bama Lounge
Can’t you just hear the sound of bacon sizzling in a hot iron skillet, the savory scent lifting into the air, the fresh crackling of vegetable trinity as it hits the pan? That’s because the World Food Championships is coming to town, and local chef Jonathan Langston will participate in the World Chef Challenge Nov. 8 at The Wharf.
Langston won his golden ticket to the World Food Championships at the Flora-Bama’s Wild Chef Throw Down during the Flora-Bama’s Fishing Rodeo in June. Categories included bacon, hamburgers and seafood freshly caught during the tournament.
Langston drew the burger category and won for his Bacon, Bourbon, Beer-Cheese Burger. Required ingredients included Bill-E’s Bacon, a small batch, smoked meat from Fairhope, Ala. He invented a dish that left the judges’ mouths watering.
He said he’s thrilled to have this opportunity to challenge his creativity, and showcase the art form he loves most.
Langston will compete in the World Chef Challenge, so he will be required to make paella in the structured build category, and a chef signature dish with the required ingredient of Challenge Dairy cream cheese. He’s not giving away any details before the competition, but it’s safe to say that his dish will feature gourmet style with a Southern flair.
“I began my love of cooking in Southern roots, watching at my grandmother's elbows in her kitchen in Chilton County, Ala.,” he said. “Her house was always full of cousins, uncles, aunts and hungry family members who couldn’t get enough of her cooking.”
He’s put his Southern style to plenty of good uses over the years. Over the past 25 years, he has developed his skills and creativity under such legends as Frank Stitt of Highlands Bar and Grill, Bottega Favorita and Chez Fon Fon and Carole Griffin of Continental Bakery and Chez Lulu in Birmingham, Ala. After moving to Key West, Fla., he was able to expand his expertise as the executive sous chef at Pier House Resort and Spa. He later moved to Charleston, S. C., where he owned his own catering and personal chef business while expanding his knowledge of fin fish and seafood working as a fish monger. Finally, he moved to Chilton County to open a restaurant and marina on Lake Mitchell in Clanton, Ala. He then worked for Southern Restaurant Group’s Louisiana Lagniappe and Café Grazie in Orange Beach, Ala. He suffered a debilitating back injury that led to six back surgeries and left him disabled for four years.
“Having my creative outlet taken away gave me stronger resolve,” he divulged. “I couldn’t stand watching so many progressions in the food world without being a part of it.”
After working for a few years in Methodist Ministry, he became a manager at the city of Orange Beach Recreation Center, where, in cooperation with the city's Coastal Arts Center, he began a children's culinary camp, introduced culinary arts into the after school arts program and started monthly themed cooking classes for adults.
“I am a newly-wed who fell in love with my wife, Jessica, while she worked at the Coastal Arts Center — I helped her create children's culinary classes and ultimately, Culinary Art Camp so that she would notice me,” he said. “It worked! We had our first Culinary Art Camp meeting that turned into a six-hour dinner date on June 16, 2015; we married in July 2016 and have been cooking and creating together ever since.”
And that’s why he says he’s so thankful for this second chance to live out his passions through food.
“After years of avoiding the culinary world due to the disappointment of having it ripped away from me, every opportunity I’m given to cook and teach and create brings me immeasurable joy. The fact that my children get to see me as a chef, rather than just hear about something I used to be…it’s huge.”
Langston will compete at the World Food Championships at The Wharf in Orange Beach on Wednesday, Nov. 8 at 10 a.m. There, he will compete for the chance to move on to the Top 10 Round — where the winner takes home $10,000. The World Chef Challenge Top Ten Round will take place Nov. 11 from 9-11:30 a.m.
For tickets and more information, visit www.worldfoodchampionships.com.