Five Star Food Fight Featured Chef: Ben Park

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There’s a certain quintet of culinary genius who will be front and center at ℹ️ Chattanooga Market’s annual Five Star Food Fight , the culminating event of Restaurant Week. Visit their restaurants during Restaurant Week, then come to Chattanooga Market to see them in action. Please come back daily to see all of our featured chefs who will be competing.

A Chattanooga native and graduate of University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, Park’s degree was in the visual arts, but a love of cooking took him in the direction of the culinary arts, and as do many young cooks, he has worked his way up the ladder from cook at Virginia Cofer’s Silver Jalapeno and Southside Cafe, and at ℹ️ St. John’s under chef and restaurateur Daniel Lindley. But it was under the tutelage of St. John’s Chef Rebecca Barron that his plans for a lifelong career in the culinary arts were cemented. Now, as sous chef at ℹ️ Easy Bistro, he works with a team of more than a dozen in the kitchen, making dishes that put a spin on French classics, using farm-to-table fare and mirroring the flavors of New Orleans, the hometown of Easy owner and chef, Erik Neal.

Park, though, says he doesn’t want to be “pigeon-holed” into any one culinary style. “I’m a Southern boy dreaming about the world,” he says. “I haven’t traveled much, so cooking is my way of traveling. If I dream about France, I might dream about making trout almondine—using Pickett’s Farm trout, though. It’s all about what’s in season. What’s growing right now. That dictates the menu.”

Park wants diners to leave Easy with a feeling that they’ve left the stresses of everyday life behind. “The easiest way to affect that is through food,” he says. “Restaurants should be a comfortable refuge. If I can make that happen, I feel I’ve done my job.”

He’s also learning the business end of running a restaurant in hopes of opening his own one day. “Erik has pushed me harder than anyone I’ve ever worked for. I appreciate that. There’s a whole new wave of young people opening restaurants around here, and it will probably be my turn sooner rather than later.”

For more information visit easybistro.com.

Five Star Food Fight will take place on July 30th at the ℹ️ Chattanooga Market.

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Anne Braly is a frequent contributor to Chattanooga Magazine.

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