November 2, 2013 10:06:45 PM
We all know that Mississippi has produced some of the best writers and musicians in the world. Now we can add another talented resident to our extensive list of bragging rights. Seonkyoung Longest is a Columbus chef who will be competing in "Restaurant Express," premiering tonight on Food Network.
Born and raised in South Korea, Seonkyoung, 29, grew up working in her family's restaurant before moving to Mississippi. Watching television, especially cooking shows, helped her to learn English. She describes herself as a home cook who's passionate about Asian-inspired dishes that feature signature spiciness.
"I learned Korean food from my mom and lots of recipes are from my memories," she says. "But, other than that, my basic knowledge and technique of cooking I learned by watching Food Network."
When asked if she had any favorite dishes to prepare, she said, "I would say new recipes. I love taking adventures in the kitchen by cooking new dishes that I've never tried or cooked before."
Seonkyoung has a few tricks up the sleeve of her chef's jacket. She thinks that many people will be "fooled by her looks." "I can cook more than Asian food. I probably can make better collard greens and pasta dishes than anybody in the competition." Ah, that Mississippi influence!
She will certainly need an edge, because the competition is formidable. Nine experienced chefs will have a chance to fulfill their lifelong dream of launching a restaurant in Las Vegas. The chefs will visit different cities and locations, traveling aboard the "Restaurant Express" bus, competing in challenges that test their culinary skills and business savvy as potential restaurateurs. After each challenge, the host, Chef Robert Irvine, will review their performances. One chef will be eliminated at the end of each episode. The final contestant standing wins an opportunity to help launch, and become the executive chef, of a restaurant at the M Resort Spa Casino.
Seonkyoung is passionate about "food made with love and care." Whether she is preparing rustic Korean cuisine, or southern comfort food, her philosophy is the same. "I believe what we putting in our body is what makes us -- inside and out. Food is one of the most important things in our lives, but one of the most easiest things to get lazy on. Food is experience, health and love. It's got to be done in love, because we deserve it. After people eat my food, they are always happy and in a better mood. I'm cooking for people, to share, to tell them that they deserve to eat good food; real food that is made with love. That's why I'm here. And I will have some fun while I'm at it." Mood altering food! My mouth is watering. My heart is beating a bit faster, as well.
Seonkyoung is "very, very, very excited about the show," but understandably nervous as well. She has only been cooking for a few years and is apprehensive about her "lack of experience compared to other chefs in the competition."
If you want to cheer for a Columbus chef, hop aboard "Restaurant Express" tonight, 9 p.m. ET on the Food Network. We may be inspired to create our own Asian-Mississippi fusion dishes. But I am sure we will be drooling as Seonkyoung rides the "Restaurant Express."
Adele Elliott, a New Orleans native, moved to Columbus after Hurricane Katrina.