Battle of the Chefs

Published 11:00 pm Thursday, August 30, 2012

Chef Clay Lyles will be competing in the Battle of the Chefs at UAB on Saturday.

University executive chefs go head to head for school bragging rights

The Troy Trojans and UAB Blazers won’t be the only ones battling for a victory at Legion Field on Saturday.

Outside the stadium will be an Iron Chef-style “kitchen stadium” where Troy University’s Executive Chef Clay Lyles will go head to head with UAB Executive Chef Adrian Cordes in the Battle of the Chefs.

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“They emailed us with some of the pantry items we would have available, but there will be a mystery ingredient, just like in television shows,” Lyles said. “There will be several herbs and spices and vegetables, but we won’t know what that one thing is we have to incorporate in all our dishes until competition time.”

The showdown will take place at 9 a.m. at Blazer Village, just outside Legion Field. Lyles and Cordes will be judged by a three-person panel – Troy’s Senior Vice Chancellor for Financial Affairs Dr. Jim Bookout, UAB Student Government Association President Adrian Jones and a Birmingham food critic.

Chefs will have one hour to create two to three dishes that all feature the secret ingredient. Winners will be announced at half time based on presentation, taste and creativity.

Lyles said his interview for Sodexo at the university was a challenge. The chef had to impress his future employers by creating four dishes from mystery ingredients within a three-hour time period.

“It was stressful, but I wasn’t in front of a crowd,” Lyles said.

Lyles and Cordes will share a six-foot grill under two tents. They’ll each be allowed an assistant and the use of two propane-powered eyes.

“I know that I’ll get nervous before I get up there,” Lyles confessed. “I have a little stage fright, but that will go away.”

Lyles’ game plan is to not waste any time over thinking his ingredients.

“You are trying to impress three judges,” Lyles said. “You don’t have time to be indecisive.”

There’s really no reason for Lyles to be nervous. He has culinary training from Jefferson State Community College, benefited from an apprenticeship at Cafe Bottega under respected chef Frank Stitt, snagged corporate training through Applebee’s and O’Charley’s, and has been with Sodexo in Troy for more than two years.

And, Lyles is no stranger to football, or Trojan Coach Larry Blakney.

“I walked on at Auburn in 82,” Lyles said. “I’m looking forward to winning this one for Blakney.”