This Kentucky ‘Food Network Star’ is bringing the bling to Crave

Food Network’s Jason Smith at Crave: bling and spices

We caught up with The Food Network’s Jason Smith before he got going hosting the cooking stage at the Crave Food + Music Fest.
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We caught up with The Food Network’s Jason Smith before he got going hosting the cooking stage at the Crave Food + Music Fest.

This year the Crave food and music festival has a celebrity emcee for the food demonstrations and Lord honey has he been busy!

Jason Smith, winner of the “Food Network Star” season 13 and a native of Grayson, made TV history as the first home baker to win the show, not to mention his “Lord Honey!” catchphrase, loudly patterned coats and down-home Kentucky manner.

On Saturday and Sunday, Smith will be hosting food demos on everything from healthy to decadent as well as a new burger competition. He also will do a meet-and-greet session at 6 p.m. Saturday for photos and autographs.

Smith, who also won Food Network’s “Holiday Baking Championship,” said it’s actually his first time at the annual Lexington food festival, which features vendors offering small plates for $2, $3 or $5.

“I’m very excited to be at Crave this weekend,” Smith said. “We’re showing a lot of hemp this year and that’s one of the crop a lot of Kentucky farmers are using as a crop to replace lost tobacco income. We’re trying to bring that more into society to show people it’s such a good product ... it’s got a great taste, it’s high in protein, low in carbs and sugars. Very good for people in no carb diets.”

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Grayson native Jason Smith, who won Food Network’s “Holiday Baking Championship” as well as season 13 of “Food Network Star,” is known for his catch phrase, “Lord, honey!” as well as his Kentucky cuisine.

But don’t get the idea it’s only about the healthy stuff; after all, Smith’s cooking mantra is “bourbon, butter and bacon.”

So Sunday’s Crave demos will kick off with a bourbon brunch demo by Allison Davis of Wild Thyme Cooking. That, he said, “will include a lot of ideas of how to tie in that good Kentucky bourbon in your dishes, such as how to cook with it.”

The festival will wrap up Sunday with the Bluegrass Burger Battle from 4 to 5 p.m.

“It’s a spinoff of Lexington Burger Week,” Smith said. Apparently, many participants in the popular Burger Week events wanted to make things competitive, so Smiley Pete, which hosts both events, has added a matchup to the roster. Smith said some of the Burger Week chefs will cook for a panel of judges who will pick a winner.

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The secret to a great burger isn’t always what you think, Smith said. “It’s all about the buns when it comes to a burger,” he said.

As far as his own schedule, Smith has been working on new recipes and a coat line for Southerncountrybling.com, honing a new TV show (“Lot of things in the works that I can’t mention, so keep an eye on my social media and the TV”), filming episodes of several other cooking shows as well has holiday baking specials (look for both Halloween and Christmas ones later this year on Food Network) and speaking to people all over the country about great Kentucky food.

“I was just in Salt Lake City doing a demo,” he said. “I was serving them a chicken and dumpling pot pie, a mashup of both together and it’s just phenomenal.”

Apparently the people of Salt Lake were eating a sad version of chicken and dumplings without actual dumplings. “It was more like a chicken noodle soup,” he said. His true Kentucky dumpling (“kind of like biscuit dough that you spoon into the broth,” of course) was a revelation.

That’s the kind of food he’d grown up with, he said, and he has been thrilled to see it elevated to a national stage with Kentucky’s many recent TV and print pieces, including the filming of “Top Chef” here this summer.

“Lord Honey, let me tell you, I always was optimistic about Kentucky, that people would finally see what great chefs and bakers we have here and how our food scene has blown up in the last five to 10 years,” Smith said. “I’ve never been so happy in all my life to see that Kentucky is one of those top runners in the food. You have competitions coming to Kentucky and filming in Kentucky because our food scene is so awesome.”

Which is not a surprise to most people who live here but maybe to those elsewhere.

“We knew it but nobody else did,” Smith said.

Fayette County PVA and foodie extraordinaire David O’Neil tells us his tips for attending the Crave Food + Music Festival, Aug. 11 and 12 at Masterson Station Park in Lexington.

Robbie Morgan, who created the Crave Food + Music Festival, left the event a couple years ago and is set to open her own place, J. Gumbo's on Limestone, in September, with a grand opening in October.