The Sixth Annual Gravy Cup

The world’s largest biscuit and gravy competition, sponsored by Kentucky Proud and Purnell’s Old Folks Sausage, is happening this Saturday at Mellwood Arts Center. This year, local celebrity judges will determine who will receive the highest marks out of the 30 participating chefs. To learn more, we spoke to three of the judges about the exciting competition and the impact it has on our community.

The Judges

Ryan Rogers: Chef, entrepreneur and owner of Feast BBQ, Royals Hot Chicken and bar Vetti

Ashlee Clark Thompson: Author, food blogger, Senior Associate Editor for CNET, and host of The Moth StorySlam in Louisville

Josh Moore: Renowned executive chef and executive pastry chef at Volare Italian Ristorante

What’s the secret to the perfect gravy?

Ryan: For me, when it comes to a traditional gravy, it’s all about starting with a great roux – the combination of flour and a fat – that could be oil, butter or rendered bacon grease that is then cooked. The type of gravy you’re making will really dictate how much you want to cook your roux – a lighter roux for a white gravy versus a darker roux for a brown gravy. That being said, there are a lot of different “gravies” out there that don’t incorporate a roux at all, such as a red eye gravy.

Ashlee: The secret to the perfect gravy is lots of gravy, some pork fat and a cast iron skillet.

Josh: My advice for the perfect traditional gravy is use good quality sausage, let it cook down slowly and get some good color on the outside. Use whole milk for the best flavor and richness, and definitely don’t forget the fresh-cracked black pepper.

Who makes your favorite gravy?

Ryan: Newman Miller at Star Hill Provisions out in Loretto, Kentucky.

Ashlee: I went to college at Western Kentucky University, and there’s a diner there called Teresa’s Restaurant. Their biscuits and gravy made for an excellent breakfast after a long night.

Josh: My favorite of all time was the sausage gravy my grandmother Elizabeth made. It was a Sunday morning breakfast tradition, and even though I watched her and took mental notes many times, I just can’t seem to make it the same. It’s the gravy I still compare all others to today.

What’s your favorite part of the Gravy Cup?

Ryan: I really enjoy seeing the vast variety of gravies that people are making from family recipes that have been passed down from generation to generation coupled with new ideas that people are coming up with. My favorite part though is knowing they all come from the heart; that’s where the best food starts.

Ashlee: This is my first year as a Gravy Cup judge, so I’m just excited to eat.

Josh: My favorite part of the Gravy Cup is seeing the creativity of the chefs, restaurants and home cooks. This shines through especially in the non-traditional category. Not to mention, it’s simply awesome that Louisville hosts the world’s largest biscuit and gravy competition. I’m really looking forward to trying all the entries this year!

The event benefits Boys & Girls Haven. Why is this important to you?

Ryan: We get requests for donations and sponsorships daily, and unfortunately we can’t fill all of them, but because of that we’ve tried to focus on organizations that provide opportunities for underprivileged and at-risk youth and families, and Boys & Girls Haven does this to a tee. They’re helping to break the cycle of poverty, homelessness and abuse among youth that have aged out of foster care. I’m happy to not only be able to donate my time to help judge their event, but that our business, HiCotton Hospitality, could help sponsor the event as well.

Ashlee: Boys & Girls Haven helps kids who need it the most. I’m happy to help this organization continue its mission, and try some great food in the process.

Josh: Boys & Girls Haven is a wonderful organization for the community to support. The groundwork they put in to develop the futures of abused and at-risk children is life-changing. The children that benefit from their programs grow up to be integral parts of our city, from businesspeople to community leaders. Without the support of Boys & Girls Haven early in life, many of the kids they help could have had a much different future. VT

The Gravy Cup

Mellwood Arts Center Van Gogh Room

11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Feb. 24