This is the time of year when we makes lists, so in keeping with that tradition, here are the 10 coolest things to happen in the Oklahoma food scene in 2012.
101 course meal: When you consider all factors, this was the coolest thing that happened in the Oklahoma City food scene in 2012. Looking for a challenge, chef Kurt Fleischfresser had to make up his own with a 100-course continuous service. With the help of Coach House chef de cuisine David Henry, Tasting Room chef Matt Johnson and a team of local chefs including Vuong Nguyen, Jonathon Groth, Christine Dowd, Alain Buthion, Chad Willis, Joseph Royer and Kathryn Mathis. This was an undertaking worth national attention, and the result was spotless. Here's hoping they go for 110 in 2013.
Kitchen 324: Though it just opened before Christmas, the early returns are impressive: A French-inspired, localcentric breakfast and lunch emporium for downtown. This is a much-needed signature spot for ultrahigh quality food with price points that will allow it to be a weekly, or in some cases daily, stop for our downtown. There is a new downtown standard-bearer for quality, and it is Kitchen 324.
Joshua Valentine: If JV hadn't run off to Dallas the second he got back from filming the ongoing tenth season of Bravo's “Top Chef,” this would've easily been the No. 1 coolest thing to happen in local foodsphere. Even with the untimely exodus to the brand-new, buzz-heavy FT-33 south of the Red River, Valentine's selection for the top culinary competition show is enormous for this market. Thanks to Valentine's Oklahoma pride, he's made it very clear to the “Top Chef” world that there's plenty cooking where the wind comes sweeping down the plain.
Francis Tuttle Culinary School: Under the direction of chef Marc Dunham, The Francis Tuttle CareerTech opened its School of Culinary Arts in 2012. The ambitious program will offer some unparalleled opportunities for would-be chefs and cooks as it continues to unfold. The school, located within the Rockwell Campus, has already opened a cafeteria open to the public and Cravings bakery, which is open weekdays till 7 p.m., with a full-service restaurant set to open in the spring of 2013. You'll read plenty more about the program early next year. For now, rest assured Oklahoma City got a lot cooler when this place opened.
Tabb Singleton: Turns out chef Valentine wasn't the only one to pop up on national television during the late fall. Idabel-native Tabb Singleton, who currently toils as executive sous chef at Emeril's NOLA in New Orleans, made an appearance on Food Network's “Chopped” in November and took home $10,000 for his efforts. Singleton says his goal is to open a restaurant in Oklahoma City by the end of 2013, so there's a good chance he'll make the list again next year.
Uptown Grocery Company: While Whole Foods opened at the end of 2011, sending shock waves throughout the local grocery industry, Susan and Hank Binkowsi decided to look the national chain right in the eye and retort with its own high-end concept located in far northwest Edmond. With artisan breads, pastry, meats and prepared foods with plenty of local and gourmet ingredients on every aisle, Uptown also sells the simple stuff. Its success will breed expansion of that brand and likely the birth of others like it. The result is really great choices for Oklahoma City.
Local in Norman: It was a big year in Norman. Chuy's Tex-Mex Cafe came to town, the Thien family of Grand House fame opened a concept there, Andy Gmeiner of Royal Bavaria opened a new restaurant and bar on Main St., Urban Roots left for downtown Oklahoma City and Forward Foods moved into a bigger space. But the biggest news in Norman food news was the opening of Local, a wildly ambitious farm-to-fork concept headed by veteran chef Ryan Parrott