Remember back before he was a James Beard Award winner when Underbelly's Chris Shepherd used to sling hash browns in a lowly Waffle House?
OK, so it was a one-time gig this past February to practice for the Waffle House Smackdown, a short-order cooking competition at the 2014 Charleston Wine + Food Festival. Shepherd worked at a Waffle House in Pasadena for four hours (in uniform and everything) to prepare for the competition, which was held in March. He competed against Michael Hudman of Hog & Hominy in Memphis, Kevin Gillespie of Gunshow in Atlanta and defending champion Mike Lata of Fig in Charleston.
Of course, our hometown hero Shepherd won handily against the other chefs, though not when he was pitted against Jeff Appleton, a longtime Waffle House employee. Some skills just take time.
To celebrate the win, Shepherd is hosting a special, one-night breakfast for dinner event at Hay Merchant on June 11 at 6:30 p.m.
"I have incredible respect for the cooks at Waffle House," Shepherd said as part of the reasoning behind the event. "They put out great food, and they put it out fast. They'll serve 3,000 people on a Saturday."
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Before he returns to Charleston to defend his title and his Golden Egg Pan Award at next year's Charleston Wine + Food Festival., he needs a little more practice. The dinner at Hay Merchant will feature Waffle House-inspired food as well as beer, because it's Hay Merchant.
A press release tells guests to "expect plenty of smothered, covered and peppered hash browns, omelets and, of course, waffles--complete with beer pairings." And now I realize the one thing that my beloved Waffle House is missing is beer. Brilliant!
Tickets to the dinner ate $90 and include food, beer and gratuity. Tax is additional. You can pick up tickets at Hay Merchant during business hours, but better get in there and get your tickets soon.
Unlike Waffle House, Hay Merchant cannot serve 3,000 people in one day, though you can bet Shepherd will try his damnedest.