Brandon Sumblin, FHS class of ‘11, wins ‘Cooks vs. Cons’ Food Network show

Published 1:00 pm Saturday, October 8, 2016

Brandon Sumblin, a 2011 graduate of Franklin High School with honors, has loved cooking since his grandmother taught him to make pancakes at four years old, and asked for an easy-bake oven for Christmas at age six, much to the chagrin of his father.

Now, he’s the executive chef at his mother-in-law’s restaurant, Serenity Tea Room and Fine Dining, in Frederick, Maryland, and recently won the Food Network’s reality TV show “Cooks vs. Cons.”

Sumblin was one of two professional chefs invited to participate in the show, alongside two “cons” – who were amateurs. The audience would not learn who was a “pro” and who was a “con” until after the final round of the competition.

“Each [participant] was given a secret ingredient and a 30-minute timeframe to cook a dish,” Sumblin said. “In my case, during the first round, I was given crab cakes [as my assigned dish to prepare] and my secret ingredient was frozen vegetables. Once I won the first round, I was allowed to cook whatever I wanted [for the second and final round] but still had to use another secret ingredient.”

Sumblin chose to make steak and eggs, and was given a mimosa cocktail as his second secret ingredient, which he used to marinate the filet mignon and as a pickling solution for a cabbage slaw. Then he deep fried the eggs over easy.

“Whoever won was the recipient of $10,000 if it was revealed you were a pro chef and $15,000 if it ws revealed you were a con,” Sumblin said. “No one really knew until the end of the show.”

Sumblin completed his undergraduate culinary arts degree at Johnson and Wales University in Charlotte, North Carolina in 2013.

“They [Johnson and Wales] have a really good program,” Sumblin said. “Most people go to the Culinary Institute of America but Johnson and Wales is up there too in quality. I was originally looking at Miami but my parents thought it was too far from home, so I chose Charlotte.”

Since graduating, Sumblin has opened two restaurants for Wolfgang Puck, one in Charlotte and another in Palm Desert, California. His current venture at Serenity Tea Room has become a family business with his wife, Tiera, as pastry chef and restaurant manager and his mother-in-law as the owner.

For now, Sumblin is content to stay in his current position at his family-owned restaurant, but more TV appearances may be in his future someday.

“I would love to be a celebrity chef if that’s God’s plan,” Sumblin said.

As for Sumblin’s now-92-year-old grandmother, whom he considers his biggest inspiration to go into cooking, she still lives in the City of Franklin.