WALK Wins #7: The Sorghum Challenge

April 2, 2013 WNC Chefs Challenge

Chef Graham Overal – The Blackbird Restaurant

Chef Chuck Kegg – West Asheville Lounge & Kitchen


Written by Melissa Reardon


If you’ve ever met Asheville Wine & Food Festival Director Bob Bowles, then you know he’s one of the region’s biggest cheerleaders for the local food movement and knows just about every farmer, food producer, vintner, brewer, and restaurateur around. For Round 7 of the WNC Chefs Challenge, which pitted Chef Graham Overal from The Blackbird against Chef Chuck Kegg from West Asheville Kitchen & Lounge, Bowles had to do a good bit of research to source the night’s secret ingredient: sorghum, that distinctly sweet Southern staple that hardy homesteaders slathered on biscuits and baked into breads and cookies.


Not many folks these days take the time to press the cane and squeeze the juice, then boil it down into thick syrup. But thanks to Mr. Owen Ball from Madison County, diners at the April 2nd challenge got a taste of bona fide sorghum. And thankfully, the chefs chose to present dishes that, for the most part, stayed true to its Southern roots.


Aside from WALK’s crispy shrimp and sorghum Asian salad appetizer, voted the No. 2 dish of the evening, bacon flecked collard greens, sorghum peppered beef tenderloin, caramelized apples, and buttermilk ice cream all pulled at my heartstrings. Though I loved the blue sweet potato and sorghum puree with seared salmon from Blackbird and the sorghum-brined pork chop and crispy polenta cake from WALK, it was the two desserts that won diners’ hearts and votes.


The Blackbird’s sorghum-pecan bread pudding with buttermilk ice cream was heavenly, but didn’t quite top WALK’s dessert: vanilla-sorghum ice cream with caramelized apples, candied pecans, pomegranate-sorghum glaze, and a chestnut cookie.


Alas, WALK took the top honor of the evening by a slim one-point margin, and will move on to compete in the quarterfinal round on May 7. The winner of next week’s bout, featuring Chef Brian Ross at DOUGH against Chef Michael Marshall of Harrah’s Cherokee Resort, will determine who Chef Kegg will take on. Stay tuned!


The Blackbird

Pan Seared Salmon with blue Sweet Potato and Sorghum Puree with Wilted Spinach

Sorghum Peppered Beef Tenderloin with Potato Rosti and Braised Kale, Chard and Bacon

Sorghum-pecan Bread Pudding with Buttermilk Ice Cream  Voted #3



Crispy Shrimp and Sorghum Asian Salad topped with Mango and Chive  Voted #2

Sorghum-brined Pork Chop with Crispy Dixie Polenta Cake, Collards, and Sorghum Demi

Vanilla Sorghum Ice Cream with Caramelized Apple, Candied Pecans, Pomegranate-sorghum Glaze and a Chestnut Cookie  Voted #1


Melissa Reardon is a freelance writer and the Marketing Coordinator for the Asheville Wine & Food Festival. Reach her at marketing@ashevillewineandfood.com.