Cincinnati Chef Christian Gill has taken over Guy’s Grocery Games Summer Tournament for the past five weeks. On the season finale Wednesday night, the local chef moved on to the final round with a buttermilk-fried rockfish dish served over a spicy mustard slaw and five spice sweet potato fries.
In the final round he knocked out the competition making a grilled summer feast with tandoori inspired chicken and blackened shrimp. He also had a fresh chickpea salad and used whammy ingredients of marshmallows and graham crackers in a sweet potato salad.
As the overall winner of the competition, Gill took home over $32,500 on this summer challenge. To make the win even more memorable, Kellogg’s also donated 200,000 meals in his name to No Kid Hungry.
Chef Gill has a staple in the Cincinnati food scene, where he’s based, called Boomtown Biscuits & Whiskey. Gill and his creativity have been dominating the Food Network competition show recently. Outside of his Food Network success, he loves all things biscuits and it shows with his restaurant.
Gill talked about recipes and everything Boomtown Biscuits. He also shared his plans for the future and some of his favorite spots in Cincinnati since he has been based in the city for the past 10 years.
How did your family influence any of your cooking style and recipes?
I spent a lot of time in my family’s kitchens growing up with various family members. I would definitely say that I learned a lot of the basics from them before moving into a formal culinary career.
Do you have a dream food travel destination?
The river markets of Thailand. That is definitely my dream food travel destination. Being able to just experience all of the vendors that come up and down the rivers. Experiencing and cooking all kinds of fresh seafood and street food is definitely one of my top three food destinations. Hopefully, I can make it happen soon.
Boomtown is my go-to spot when I am home in Cincinnati, I order the Yukon every time. What is your favorite dish to prepare and eat?
My favorite dish to prepare is definitely Aunt Sally’s shrimp and grits. A lot of people don’t like grits until they’ve tried mine.
People always think of those Quaker instant grits and that isn’t what we have. For me, it’s the white smoked cheddar, chicken stock, butter, and a touch of salt. It’s a very simple method.
Is your biscuit recipe from your family, where did the recipe come from?
I developed it. I’ve eaten a lot of biscuits in my time. My former business partner and best friend, before he passed away, we did a lot of research and flew all over the country eating biscuits everywhere we could.
We traveled from the South to the Pacific northwest, just trying every possible iteration of the biscuit that we could get our hands-on. It just came down to what I already knew and what we already were working on, which was a white lily flour-based buttermilk biscuit. And then of course you’ve got to have time, care, love and attention to things.
The last time I was there I tried the Oreo butter for the first time. How do you come up with the new flavors of butter?
After we opened and got settled my former sous chef and I wanted to branch out and do as much as we could while still staying in the sandbox of biscuits and gravy. So making all of these different, illustrious compound butters became like a joy, and Oreo butter was one of the first butters that she made.
Customers constantly asked for it so it just stuck around.
The development process is kind of like looking around the kitchen and seeing what we have? Sometimes there is a box of cookies or a box of cereal from like just test driving a new biscuit recipe. Sometimes it’s thinking about like a favorite ice cream or just a favorite flavor profile and then figuring out a cool way to make it into a compound butter.
You also serve a poutine at Boomtown, a Canadian delicacy, what makes the perfect poutine?
Definitely the cheese curds and then just a delicious brown gravy. Those are the two key factors and of course crisp, fresh cut fries. That’s the key thing to look for. Sometimes there’s short ribs, sometimes there’s steak, sometimes there’s ground beef, but definitely the gravy, the gravy, the cheese and the fries above everything else.
Do you have any more plans to expand anymore or open up new restaurants in Cincinnati?
No, not right now. Everything is just way too volatile with the market. Construction costs are too expensive, the rising food costs like and food fuel labor like all of those things, are just in such disarray right now.
So, we are just going to do the best that we can for now and then look to the future and see what it holds.
We are going to have pop-ups though.
What are your top spots to eat in Cincinnati right now?
In Cincinnati, man right now I would say going for me was Pho Lang Tang in downtown Cincinnati. That’s my favorite place for Pho and their banh mi’s are out of this world as well.
I also like Goose and Elder for a burger since it’s Burger Week here in Cincinnati. I recommend grabbing the Royal Goose, one of my favorite burgers. Jose Salazar is one of my favorite chefs in the city.
I like Pepp and Dolores. It was one of those places when it first opened that I was kind of skeptical of but it’s a great place to have a glass of wine with friends and loved ones and some cool appetizers and small plates of pasta and it’s really really good.
I also I really love The Governor out near Milford. The Barraco boys are just doing something strange for a piece of change out there and they never let us down. They’re always doing some cool culinary things.