As a kid, Kelsey Barnard Clark would come home from school, watch some Oprah and then switch over to the Food Network, dreaming of a life she could one day live as a chef.
So, when the Food Network called, Dothan’s Top Chef entered the ring again for another round of competitive cooking.
Clark, owner and chef at KBC on Foster in downtown Dothan and the season 16 winner of Bravo’s “Top Chef,” is among the professional chefs competing in the third season of Guy Fieri’s “Tournament of Champions,” which premieres Sunday at 7 p.m. on Food Network.
And when she was told who else would be competing, she absolutely couldn’t say no.
“I’m a huge fan of Food Network to be honest, so to do something on Food Network has really always been a dream for me because that’s what I grew up watching,” Clark said.
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For Clark, participating meant eating some past words.
“I have said multiple times that I was not going to compete again,” Clark said. “… I don’t really have a desire to compete anymore, but then I got a phone call and it was Food Network and it was Guy Fieri.”
For this third season of “Tournament of Champions,” 32 chefs compete for the grand prize of $100,000 – the largest prize in the tournament’s history. The tournament concludes Sunday, April 17.
The chefs are divided by East and West coasts with a “5-wheeled randomizer” to determine the protein, produce, equipment, cooking style, and time to be used during each cook-off event. A panel of famous food judges makes the ultimate blind decisions.
But unlike “Top Chef,” which took Clark from her family for months, the filming for “Tournament of Champions” lasted only two weeks. Plus, the competitive atmosphere was very different, Clark said. All the competitors had proven themselves in other ways, and there were multiple people going home in the first round rather than just one.
“It’s basically like the Olympics of food, is really how I see it because it’s people who have already won,” Clark said. “They’ve already proven themselves … they have nothing to prove. It is solely just let’s play this game; let’s really get even deeper in competing; let’s see what these people against each other can throw out.”
Eric Adjepong, fellow “Top Chef” competitor who made it into the top three, is also competing in this season of “Tournament of Champions” and will actually compete against Clark – making this the 33rd time to two chefs have competed in challenges against each other.
Food Network is partnering with Twitter to launch a digital-only competition where fans can fill out their own personalized brackets for a chance to win cash prizes. Viewers can head to Food Network’s Twitter page from March 20 through March 27 for an individualized bracket experience featuring exclusive content. Fans can share their brackets on social media and track their standings as the competition unfolds each week.
Chefs representing the East Coast are: Eric Adjepong, Einat Admony, Karen Akunowicz, Kelsey Barnard Clark, defending champion and Tournament of Champions II winner Maneet Chauhan, Madison Cowan, Tobias Dorzon, Tiffani Faison, Darnell Ferguson, Amanda Freitag, Richard Hales, Christian Petroni, Michael Psilakis, Aarthi Sampath, Justin Sutherland, and Bryan Voltaggio.
The West Coast chefs are: Carlos Anthony, Shirley Chung, Chris Cosentino, Tiffany Derry, Elizabeth Falkner, Phillip Frankland Lee, Timothy Hollingsworth, Antona Lofaso, Crista Luedtke, Brian Malarkey, Aaron May, Joe Sasto, Jet Tila, Marcel Vigneron, Michael Voltaggio, and season one winner Brooke Williamson.
Since her win on “Top Chef” in 2019, Clark has expanded her restaurant, which is a Southern and French fusion eatery with menus for lunch, supper and Saturday brunch (www.eatkbc.com). She has been featured in magazines, served as a guest judge on “Top Chef,” and prepared her Skillet Baby Back Ribs on “Live with Kelly & Ryan.” Clark released her first cookbook, “Southern Grit,” in 2021 and has been asked to do a second book, which is set for an early release in the fall.
“It’s like a lifestyle, catering, social, party, celebrate type book,” Clark said. “So, it’s very focused on the catering side of how to have a party at your home – that’s really the goal with the book. It’s everything from setting the table, doing the florals, cooking the food, throwing the party.”