Star-a-Day: Havird Usry

Get to know Havird Usry, a finalist on Food Network Star, Season 12.
Food Network Star, Season 12

Photo by: Eddy Chen ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Eddy Chen, 2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

It was only recently that Star Talk broke the news that an unprecedented 12th season of Food Network Star is set to unfold this summer. For the first time ever, a prequel competition — Comeback Kitchen — will bring together seven past Star contestants for a no-holds-barred battle. The winner of this three-week tournament will join the dozen first-time Food Network Star finalists in the premiere episode on Sunday, May 22 at 9|8c. But before the new season kicks off, we're introducing all 12 of the hopeful rivals in exclusive, one-on-one interviews. Keep checking back every day to meet a new member of the cast. Today we'd like you to meet Havird Usry.

Havird, 28 (Augusta, Ga.), took over his family business, running one of Augusta’s most-popular restaurants since the ‘40s. He grew up learning how to cook in the family restaurant and received a formal culinary degree from Helm’s College, where he graduated first in his class. With a focus on modern Southern cuisine, Havird creates fresh, modern dishes from staples such as fried chicken and shrimp and grits. Ultra-competitive, he won’t hold back when it comes to going after what he wants.

Describe your culinary POV in one sentence.
Havird Usry: I am modern Southern cuisine.
Who are you most intimidated to be working with, Bobby or Giada?

HU: I don't think I'm really intimidated to be working with them, but sometimes a bit starstruck and in awe because you've looked up to them your whole life as Food Network stars.

If you could ask one of them to teach you one thing in the kitchen, what would it be?

HU: I would have to get Bobby to make me some kind of awesome, really spicy Tex-Mex dish. And Giada, obviously, some kind of creamy, amazing chicken Alfredo or something like that.

What one thing do you really want to convey to the mentors about who you are?

HU: I really want to put my Southern spin on things, but not classical Southern. I can't wait to just show different twists that I can put on Southern cuisine. And also I'd love to shine some light on a lot of us catering and event chefs — that, I think, is a dark part of our industry, and I'd love to shine some light on that.

How did you prepare for this competition?

HU: I did a little bit of on-camera work with my brother, just to try and feel it out, but beyond that I just was going over recipes, thinking things through my head, and just reading a lot and trying to draw influences from different places.

Win or lose, what's something you want to take away from this contest?

HU: I just want to be a better product of myself at the end of this. I think, number one, it kind of takes you out of your comfort zone. Whether you like it or not you're going to be uncomfortable at some point. And I think that adversity seems to kind of build your character, and I just want to go away a better version of myself.

What's your greatest strength in the kitchen?

HU: If I have a team around me, it's really my leadership. I think I tend to lead a team, delegate, help pull my kitchen team through difficult situations that we're in at the restaurant. Me personally, I think [it] is just my creativity and being able to think on my feet, which I think will help me well in this competition.

What is the strangest thing we'd find in your refrigerator right now?

HU: The strangest thing that you will find in my refrigerator right this second would probably be leeks, I think. ... I love potato-and-leek soup, and I just don’t think it's an ingredient that you find in everybody's refrigerator.

What do you consider to be your signature dish?

HU: I would say that my signature dish would be a spin on shrimp and grits that … [has] always been a staple in my culinary career. It has some smoked Gouda creamy grits with an andouille sausage gravy, and just mix in some blackened shrimp. So, I think that would be kind of my go-to.

What's your favorite food city to visit?

HU: I absolutely love Charleston, S.C. The food scene there is incredible, and actually, my dish I love to cook — shrimp and grits — I feel like a lot of coastal influences [there], and I think that's the city I live in. We call it the two-hour city. You can be in Atlanta in two hours, or you can be to the the beach in two hours, or you can be pretty much anywhere ... in two hours, so it's a good weekend trip for me and my wife. And I think I draw a lot of culinary influences from chefs who've created things in Charleston.

What dish or ingredient will we never catch you eating?

HU: One thing that drives me crazy in kind of our culinary world is when people misuse things. I think that ingredient, to be consistent with my past answers, would have to be rosemary. I love it in very small doses, but if somebody's throwing it all over a dish and it tastes like a Christmas tree, then I just ... want to put my fork down.

What's your favorite late-night snack?

HU: My favorite late-night snack is a monster piece of cheesecake and I can't just have cake, though. I have to have a contrasting something with it, and it's typically a — probably a vanilla ice cream.

What's your guilty-pleasure food?

HU: I have a girl that works for me that makes an amazing red velvet cake. And actually made a banana pudding cheesecake and then I put a layer of red velvet on top of it and some cream cheese icing. I'd say I think I'm going to have to make it every holiday now because it's like my new go-to when I have to just drown myself in the sweet, sweet sorrows. That's where I'm going.

What is one must-have dish at your last supper?

HU: I'm going to go simple with this. I'm a pork person, and I absolutely would love just a barbecue-like sampler for my last supper. It would just be, "Give me little sample of brisket, give me a little bit of pulled pork, some fresh dilled pickles, and maybe a little coleslaw and potato salad." Just something really simple but just comforting would be my last meal.

What do you want to say about yourself to fans watching at home?

HU: I would just like to say to all of them that I honestly cannot wait just to bring my style, my Southern hospitality style, to their parties, to their dinner tables, to their plate. And I just I can't wait to show myself to them.

Rapid fire: Think fast!
Ketchup, mustard or mayonnaise? Ketchup
Chocolate or vanilla? Chocolate
Bagels or doughnuts? Bagels
Cream cheese or butter? Both
Coffee or tea? Coffee
Burgers or hot dogs? Burgers
French fries or onion rings? French fires
White meat or dark? Dark
Cake or pie? Cake
French toast or pancakes? French toast
Beer or wine? I'm a beer man.

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Don't miss the premiere of Food Network Star, Season 12 on Sunday, May 22 at 9|8c.

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