Alhambra chef wins Food Network cooking competition

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As executive chef at the Alhambra Theatre & Dining, DeJuan Roy is charged with creating inventive menus that pair thematically with a wide variety of plays and musicals – everything from the theater’s current production of “Beauty and the Beast” to the ghostly “Blithe Spirit” and more.

Roy put that inventiveness to good use Sunday night, when the chef appeared on a special Father’s Day episode of the Food Network’s “Guy Fieri’s Grocery Games,” winning the competition that sends four talented chefs running through grocery store aisles in a high-stakes, high-skills cooking competition. In typical show challenges, chefs are called upon to do everything from find recipe substitutions when key ingredients are out of stock to prepare a gourmet meal with just five ingredients and for under $10.

Roy made it through to the show’s final round, where he was pitted one-on-one against a corporate chef from Boston. Each chef was given one main ingredient with the task of creating a Father’s Day dinner of which their family would be proud. Roy’s opponent was given duck breast, from which he made a classic duck a l’orange. Roy was given canned ham.

“He gets duck and I get canned ham?” Roy asked. “I’ve got to be creative.”

Drawing on the culinary creativity he employs in planning the Alhambra’s themed dinners, Roy prepared pork trotters, frying the ham in a seasoned flour and then covering it in a dijon mustard glaze. He accompanied it with fingerling potatoes seasoned with salt, pepper and fresh rosemary. Completing the meal were Swiss chard sautéed with salt, pepper and garlic and deglazed with white wine and vinegar.

While judges raved about the duck, it was Roy who emerged the winner, with Fieri himself commenting, “DeJuan, you just made canned ham sexy.”

For his efforts, Roy won $16,000. But the cash prize was just a nice bonus, he noted.

“I just wanted to show my kids that they can go on and do great things,” Roy said.

Roy joined the Alhambra Theatre & Dining staff in 2012, completely revamping the culinary experience at the nation’s longest running dinner theater. He changed the theater’s longtime buffet to a seated, served three-course dinner with selections that change to match each show’s theme. Since his arrival, the Alhambra has won several Best of Jacksonville awards for dining.

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