Louisville vegan chef Kristina Addington was waiting a long time for Sunday night to come. “We filmed in April, and I’ve been keeping a tight lid on it ever since,” she said. Thankfully it wasn’t all for nothing, as Sunday’s episode of Cutthroat Kitchen revealed that she was keeping the lid on an $18,500 win. She beat out three other competitors to win, and was not only the first vegan chef to take home the prize, but also took home one of the largest winnings to date.
On Cutthroat Kitchen, each contestant starts with $25,000 and can spend the money to sabotage their opponents in various ways. Addington was smart - as well as lucky - and only had to snag a couple items to win, leaving her with a large pot at the end of the show. “It was really weird to sit back and watch myself for an hour,” Addington told me. And it’s easy to understand - thinking back to the pressure of being on a national and highly rated broadcast can be nerve-wracking, not to mention the fact that she felt like she was representing the entire vegan community.
“When I first applied to the show, I really wanted to get my message out.” Addington is incredibly passionate about veganism, especially when it comes to dispelling myths and opening people’s eyes to the accessibility of a vegan diet. “There’s no reason to give up the kinds of foods you love,” she told me. “It’s easy to make delicious food that’s sustainable and healthy and still maintains the tastes you love.”
As the competition wound on, she found herself face to face with a pastry chef named Miranda in the final. The dish? Ginger snaps - Addington was nervous. “I was really scared - she’s a pastry chef! I figured that was it.” Fortune smiled on her a bit, however, as her opponent forgot a crucial ingredient to making a good cookie - baking soda. Unbeknownst to her for the duration of the competition, Maranda was struggling to figure out how to work around the loss of a crucial ingredient. Things didn’t go easy for Louisville’s champion, however - she lost a challenge that took away all of her ginger and replaced it with pickled sushi ginger.
“Alton Brown came over and took my ginger away, but I had already mixed my dough,” she recalled. “He grinned at me, grabbed the bowl and dumped it all in the trash.” She had to start over with nothing but the sushi side, and the clock was already ticking. “At the end of the thirty minutes (contestants are given thirty minutes from start to finish in each round) I looked over at Maranda’s cookies and they were super pale and flat.” Her face lit up as she recounted the moment. “I knew she forgot baking soda, and that’s when I knew I had a chance.”
As the day and a half of filming came to an end the judge crowned her the winner, and she walked away with all the cash she didn’t spend. So what is the first vegan chef on the show going to do with her winnings? “Did you know that Louisville is one of the only cities of our size that doesn’t have an actual vegan restaurant?” She looks amazed when she tells me, and it truly is surprising. Louisville is an amazing city for food, and there are plenty of vegetarians and vegans here. “I’d love to break that trend.” She has a considerable amount of capital to invest, but isn’t sure if she wants to commit to a full-fledged restaurant yet. “Right now I’m weighing the option of a food truck. I think that’d be a really neat way to start.”
Regardless of how she goes about it, there seem to be some great things in store for Louisville’s vegan community with chef Addington at the helm. Not only has she made a name for herself on national television, but she’s brought more recognition to Louisville’s growing reputation as a foodie paradise for those of all stripes. “I’ll know in a few months what I’m going to do,” she told me. I don’t know about you, but I’m waiting with bated breath for her new endeavour.
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In case you want to try some of those $18K Vegan Ginger Snaps, Kristina passed the recipe along. Enjoy!
Vegan Ginger Snaps
2 Cups Unbleached, All-Purpose Flour
1 tsp Baking Soda
1/4 tsp Salt
1 Tbsp Ground Ginger
1 tsp Cinnamon
1/2 tsp Allspice
1/2 tsp Nutmeg
1/4 Cup Vanilla Almond Milk (Soy or Coconut would also work)
1/4 Cup Brown Sugar
1/4 Cup Pure Cane Sugar
1/2 Cup Canola Oil
1/4 Cup Molasses
1 tsp Vanilla
Turbinado Sugar (optional)
Preheat oven to 350
Combine dry ingredients and set aside. Mix almond milk, sugar, oil, molasses, and vanilla. Add dry ingredients and mix to combine. Scoop by rounded tablespoon onto pan lined with parchment paper. Lightly press down and sprinkle with turbinado sugar. Bake 11 minutes.
Should Alton Brown happen to steal your ground ginger, pickled sushi ginger is optional, but not recommended.
You can snag a copy of the episode on Amazon, or stay tuned to Food Network for a rerun.
Photos courtesy of Kristina Addington / Food Network
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