Photo: Kendal Adair with host/judge Gordon Ramsay in the “Mystery Box” episode of MASTERCHEF airing Wednesday, July 12 on FOX. © 2023 FOXMEDIA LLC. (Photo credit FOX)
If you’re a follower of the television show MasterChef, you’ve been watching a DeSoto County BBQ pitmaster at work as part of the competition.
Kendal Adair is a champion in BBQ with his Smoked N Spiced cooking team, saying, “Since we started this team, I’m pretty sure we’ve gotten a trophy in every competition or every event we’ve been at. I don’t think we’ve missed one.”
Still, as good as he is at BBQ, Adair had to be encouraged to be part of “MasterChefs: United Tastes of America.”
“I got a phone call from a friend of mine who is a talent recruiter and they recruit people for reality competition shows,” Adair said. “I’ve never considered myself as a chef and so I said no. But I did a two-hour Skype video for them and that’s how it all began.”
With celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay, acclaimed chef Aarón Sánchez and renowned restaurateur Joe Bastianich, MasterChef and this year’s United Tastes of America format had top cooks from around the country represent their region of the country.
“We had people from all over the United States and we had one thing in common, a love for food and a passion for cooking,” Adair said. “I didn’t follow Gordon Ramsay until after I was on the show. I’ve never watched a full season of MasterChef. That presented a few challenges because I didn’t understand the game, but I figured it out pretty quickly.”
Among the challenges Adair faced immediately was in the quick turnaround he needed to have to make a dish for the competition.
“Most of my competitions I have a week to prepare, 24 hours to cook,” Adair said. “Well, this one you have 10 minutes to prepare and 45-60 minutes to cook. It took a lot of my bait out of my tackle box, you might say. I wasn’t able to use a lot of my tools. But I started to get the rhythm,” adding he didn’t have nerves about the competition and he was still confident in his abilities.
The different dishes had varying results.
“My first audition episode was a filet with crawfish cream sauce and mashed potatoes,” Adair said. “The second round, we did a spin on state fair food. I tried to elevate a chicken on a stick. I tried to skewer part of that and sauteed that and then I fried the potatoes. My plating was a little off there.”
Adair said he quickly learned there were some dishes the judges didn’t like and he learned what those types of dishes were. Some of that came the hard way, and some of that through the other competitors, who he was able to spend time with off the MasterChefs set.
Some dishes came with a bit of surprise, such as the challenge of making a dessert.
“It was my first dessert challenge and that is my least favorite category to cook,” Adair explained. “We got a mystery box when we walked in the room and they rolled out apples. I did not have an apple dessert in my back pocket. I panicked a little bit and I tried to wing it. I did get saved by my good friend in Little Rock Jennifer.”
Adair is game for any type of food competition, be respectable and compete. But being a BBQ pitmaster with his Smoked N Spiced cooking team is where Adair has thrived.
BBQ is something Adair has done nearly all his life.
“I did my first competition at 12 years in the Southaven Springfest Youth Division,” Adair said. “I have a love for it that is very unique. I’ve been fortunate to compete all over the United States, have some very good teachers and my parents were able to give me the opportunity.”
Adair said his wife joins him and competes, and his daughter competes, as well.
“We have some teammates and friends that come out and help us,” he said. “We’re there to win. There’s about 10 percent of the competition that are there to win. We don’t go out to get drunk. We are there to win.”
The first half of the season is region against region and then the second half of the season will have the individual cooks against each other to a top prize of $250,000 and the title of America’s MasterChef.
MasterChef is aired on FOX each Wednesday evening at 7 p.m. local time.