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Outlook 2013: Choosing local will help the rising Oklahoma City food scene

Food Editor Dave Cathey says goings on in Oklahoma City are bound to conjure up competitive spirit, which will lead to more ambitious concepts and more culinary adventures for local diners to take.

by Dave Cathey Published: April 28, 2013

Returning to Oklahoma

The future might lie in the hands of a couple of Oklahoma chefs who made a splash on national television in the past year. Tabb Singleton, of Idabel, won $10,000 on Food Network’s “Chopped” in 2012. He has been executive sous chef at Emeril Lagasse’s NOLA for several years, but has plans to leave and seek opportunities in Oklahoma City in 2013. Singleton said the money he won won’t be enough to make the dream come true, but it will certainly help. He also said it’s possible he could compete again on the show in the future.

If everything comes together for Singleton, he’d like to share what he calls contemporary redneck cuisine, which he says uses classic French techniques to celebrate and interpret the food that helped Oklahomans survive the Dust Bowl.

Chef Joshua Valentine, who was born and raised in Del City and is a graduate of The Coach House Apprenticeship Program, recently completed a run on Bravo’s “Top Chef,” finishing one step from the finale. Valentine worked in Dallas a few years ago before returning to become chef de cuisine at The Coach House, then opening his own Divine Swine Pork Bistro, which he closed in order to compete on “Top Chef.” Valentine recently announced he’s returning to Oklahoma City to man the stove at an undisclosed restaurant.

Speaking of restaurants on the horizon, the Founders Tower soon will have a new tenant at the top, where Nikz last spun guests through dinner.

And then there’s Oklahoma City native Danny Bowien, who recently was named to “Food and Wine” magazine’s Best New Chefs list for 2013. He is the owner of Mission Chinese in New York City, which is among Gotham’s hottest and most buzz-friendly concepts.

But Bowien said in an interview with the website Fast Company that he plans to open his fourth concept in Oklahoma City: “A lot of the food at Mission Chinese is influenced by me growing up there — really awesome smoked meats and barbecue, things like that. We’ll see what happens, though, that’s a little ways off.”

Let’s keep our fingers crossed for that.

Many influences for Packard’s

Meanwhile, the folks behind the local Interurban restaurants have just opened Packard’s New American Kitchen, which features house-made breads and a menu that shows influence from many cultures.

National attention

And finally, our local chefs and restaurateurs need recognition from national publications, which is slowly beginning to happen. Chef Jonathon Stranger of Ludivine recently took part in San Francisco chef Chris Cosentino’s Head-to-Tail Dinner at Incanta.

Outstanding in the Field, an international dining tour, will return to the state with help from Stranger and partner Russ Johnson.

Fleischfresser will build on the 100-course dinner he served in Culinaire for a Cause last year with a 110-course event in July.

The Big Truck Tacos family will add Back Door Barbecue to the fold, joining Mutt’s Amazing Hot Dogs.

All these goings-on are bound to conjure up competitive spirit, which will lead to more ambitious concepts and more culinary adventures for local diners to take.

And ultimately, that’s what gains you national attention.