It’s official — the Coast’s own Austin Sumrall is the Southern comfort cuisine champion.
Sumrall, the acclaimed owner and chef of Biloxi’s White Pillars Restaurant and Lounge, emerged victorious on a recent episode of “Alex Vs. America,” a Food Network show that pits three brave and talented chefs per episode against Alex Guarnaschelli, a frequent Chopped judge and an Iron Chef.
On the May 7 episode, titled “Alex vs Southern Comfort,” Sumrall and his fellow contestants, hailing from Tennessee and North Carolina respectively, had to use their cooking skills to impress judges Kelsey Barnard Clark and Adrienne Cheatham. Sumrall won with a mouthwatering take on grits and grillades, which are featured often on the White Pillars brunch menu. He took home not only the title, but a $15,000 prize.
“I pulled from not only my classical training, but also my family experiences to come up with dishes that were not only beautiful and delicious, but also nostalgic and, in my eyes, quintessentially Southern,” Sumrall says.
The chef called the Food Network appearance “one of the most fun things I’ve ever done.” He also says he was humbled and honored to not only meet, but also cook beside, a chef of Guarnaschelli’s caliber.
“The goal was always to win, and I knew it was going to be extremely tough,” Sumrall says, “but I wanted to show everyone that Mississippi cuisine was worthy.”
Honors are nothing new for the McComb, Mississippi, native, who was named King of American Seafood during the 2021 Great American Seafood Cook-Off in New Orleans and was a 2020 James Beard semi-finalist.
“It was such a treat to be able to represent my home state and be able to put Mississippi cuisine on a national stage against the best of the best,” Sumrall says. “I hope to get the opportunity to do it again!”