Jermaine Brown is used to throwing ingredients together to make a good meal in a kitchen with his team around him. In a couple of weeks, the chef will do the same thing, but with surprise ingredients and in front of an audience of strangers.
Brown, the executive chef of Plano’s Julia Pearl Southern Cuisine, will compete in the upcoming Iron Fork Chef Competition. Chef and restaurateur Kent Rathbun will moderate the event, where each chef is given a box of ingredients from Whole Foods. They then rely on their own skills and creativity to make something impressive.
“I don’t know what I’m going to get," Brown says. "But I’ll try to assume some things that I could, and I’ll definitely try to train."
Brown will go head to head against Oliver Sitrin of Blind Butcher. “Oliver and I are good culinary friends, also," Brown says. "I want the best for the both of us, but I want to win."
Sitrin's an executive chef skilled at meals that involve curing meats and grinding and hand-cranking sausages. His kitchen makes pastrami in-house. Brown, meanwhile, brings expertise in Southern cooking, which he’s been preparing at Julia Pearl since the restaurant opened in January.
“It’s like down-home cooking in a way,” he says. “It’s Southern cooking, but it’s a little upscale to where I can put my culinary tactics to it.”
While his kitchen’s preparing Southern-fried chicken and shrimp and grits, Brown says he's most excited about one item he says he’s “got down.”
“I definitely have more pride in my brisket right now," he says. "It took three weeks, but I’ve got it."
He’s confident enough for the competition and plans to start training this week — but it’s not really the ingredients he’s most worried about.
“I’ll feel it, pressure-wise, because the audience is looking at me,” he says. “If I were in the kitchen by myself, I’d be a lot better. I’ll just have to ‘delete' the audience and go.”
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Whoever wins, Brown feels it will be a learning experience.
“I’m used to things falling apart in the kitchen,” he says. “This type of thing, it helps you grow as a chef."
Iron Fork happens April 27 at Centennial Hall at Fair Park. Buy tickets here.
Julia Pearl Southern Cuisine, 2301 N. Central Expressway, No. 195, Plano