Chefs Raise $200K at LeBonAppetit for Memphis Kids Hospital (Slideshow)

By
Arthur Bovino

"Memphis has so much to offer," noted mixologist Jayce McConnell. "A great food scene thanks to chefs like Kelly English and Andy Ticer and Michael Hudman who showcase such amazing craftsmanship in their dishes. Dinners at Iris are such cherished memories. I still dream about the pasta dishes that come out of the incredibly small yet strong kitchen at Andrew Michael,  and I've never had a better pizza than the round miracles that come out of the brick inferno at Hog & Hominy. That being said, I love Memphis dive bars. They cannot be recreated. That special kind of ugly beauty draws me in wherever I find myself. It's where the stories end. Rot-gut whiskey, cheap beer and greasy cheeseburgers frame a lot of great ends to nights for me in 'the 901'."


Underbelly Chef Chris Shepherd and Mixologist Jayce McConell

Arthur Bovino

"Memphis has so much to offer," noted mixologist Jayce McConnell. "A great food scene thanks to chefs like Kelly English and Andy Ticer and Michael Hudman who showcase such amazing craftsmanship in their dishes. Dinners at Iris are such cherished memories. I still dream about the pasta dishes that come out of the incredibly small yet strong kitchen at Andrew Michael,  and I've never had a better pizza than the round miracles that come out of the brick inferno atHog & Hominy. That being said, I love Memphis dive bars. They cannot be recreated. That special kind of ugly beauty draws me in wherever I find myself. It's where the stories end. Rot-gut whiskey, cheap beer and greasy cheeseburgers frame a lot of great ends to nights for me in 'the 901'."


Dyer's Burgers

Arthur Bovino

While not a part of the LeBonAppetit event, Dyer's Burgers is a Memphis institution, so it's one of the places that anyone visiting should make a point of checking out. Opened in 1912 by Elmer "Doc" Dyer, this Beale Street burger joint is famous for its cooking grease. Burgers are cooked in a large skillet — hold that, sure they're cooked, but fried by being immersed in oil is more accurate.

Make sure you sit at the counter, and keep in mind that the double cheeseburger is the suggested move here. If you try to order one patty, you'll likely get the response: "You sho, honey? Our patties are pretty small." Once you acquiesce, watch the process. The short order cook uses a spatula to lift a patty out, covers it with a slice of cheese, immerses the cheese-topped patty back in the grease to melt it, raises it up again, tops it with another fried patty, and repeats the process before laying it on a shiny bun that almost looks like it was given the same treatment but just acquires the shine from being in contact with the process. 

Locals swear it's been the same grease (strained daily) used throughout the years going back to Doc Dyer's times. That's a scary thought and doubtful, but it's a fine burger you probably have no business eating again. 

LeBonAppetit Chefs at Gus's World Famous Fried Chicken

Arthur Bovino

"I love this place," noted chef John Currence entering Gus's World Famous Fried Chicken. "It's like eating in a shower stall."

And he wasn't alone in his love for this fried chicken icon. The LeBonAppetit chefs took over two of the gingham tablecloth-covered tables and dug in to several plates of chicken, fried green tomatos, fried pickles, and Budweiser 40s. 

Fried Chicken at Gus's

Arthur Bovino

The original Gus's World Famous Fried Chicken is in Mason, but the second location similarly takes its own sweet time when it comes to frying chicken, often taking twice as long to complete an order than the estimated time, but the wait is worth it. The golden-brown crust on the outside locks in the juicy exterior, just as it should, and the seasoning of salt and cayenne shines through. This is some salty chicken, salty in that pass-me-another piece good way, with a very thin and crispy exterior. Well-deserving of being listed as one of the epic spots along the Great American Fried Chicken Roadmap.

The Peabody Hotel: Home of the Famed Peabody Ducks

Arthur Bovino

On this occasion, there were a few LeBonAppetit-inspired chef drinking sessions at The Lobby Bar in The Peabody hotel (home to the famed Peabody ducks) where most of the chefs stayed, and whose fountain chef John Currence was particularly proud of not ending up in before the end of the weekend. 

Quesadilla

Arthur Bovino

There were some 31 other chefs from 10 other states beyond Tennessee (Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas, and even Massachusetts) who participated in the 2014 LeBonAppetit, all of them friends of chef Kelly English. They drew more than 800 guests for the LeBonAppetit event at Minglewood Hall, cooking food like this quesadilla topped with fried cheese, and an addictive rice cake dish served by chef Chris Shepherd of Houston's Underbelly. Chefs ultimately helped raise more than $200,000.

Party At The Second Line

Arthur Bovino

Chef Kelly English and his wife Angela showed an amazing amount of hospitality to the chefs at their New Orleans-inspired restaurant The Second Line. After the LeBonAppetit event, they hosted an after-party for the chefs that featured Jell-O shots at the door, an ice luge for shots in the backyard, and piles of oysters, sweetbread, and cheeseburger po'boys. That hospitality ran late into the night before a second visit to Earnestine & Hazel's. 

Earnestine & Hazel's

Arthur Bovino

Local haunt Earnestine's & Hazel's on South Main in downtown Memphis seems to capture the imagination of every visiting chef who samples it late at night. Generally regarded as one of the country's best dive bars, Earnestine's & Hazel's has the kind of pedigree (and patina) you can try to describe without really ever getting at the truth. 

If you haven't been, consider the following lore. The building that houses Earnestine's & Hazel's supposedly started as a pharmacy in the ‘30s and was owned by Abe Plough, the man who would invent Coppertone suntan lotion. Rich from his invention, Plough supposedly gave the building to two hairstylists (sisters) operating upstairs who used another of his products to straighten hair. Their names? Earnestine and Hazel. They turned the spot into a café, one said to be visited by musicians like B.B. King, Tina Turner, Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles, Bo Diddley, and Chuck Berry after gigs at a nearby club. Food wasn't the only thing people stopped in for — there was also supposedly a brothel upstairs. 

After being boarded up in the 1970s, it was reopened in 1993 by Russell George, who until he died last year, hosted an amazing atmosphere with a fantastic jukebox in a bar whose every step creaks, and whose every inch holds the tantalizing smell of the incredibly slow-cooked soul burgers the joint is known for.

Soul Burger at Earnestine & Hazel's

Arthur Bovino

Is this the best burger you'll ever have? Well, that partly depends on what time of night you get there and how hungry you are, but let's put it this way, when a man in the corner upstairs says something mystical like, "I've been here since before it began and I'll still be here after it's closed," the floors slant, and all the while, a guy who looks like Bon Jovi plays honky-tonk, you end up feeling like you're eating a magical burger in a former brothel where time stands still.