Food Writers & Chefs Talk The Best Restaurants Of 2021

We didn’t eat at enough restaurants last year. Sure, in a lot of ways 2021 was more “normal” than 2020 — we started going to concerts, bars, movie theaters, and generally having lives again. Covid cases were on a downward trend! Vaccination rates were rising! Then we got hit with the Delta and Omicron variants and that renewed sense of optimism started to fizzle.

As of January 4th, there’s a fair bit that’s unclear. How serious is Omicron? Is it less dangerous than previous strains? More contagious?

The fears (many valid!) associated with this new strain of Covid means restaurants — which generally run on paper-thin margins — are struggling once again. So, in an effort to give some shine to our favorite independently owned and operated businesses, we reached out to some of our favorite chefs, food personalities, and food writers and asked them

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Vidl, downtown Knoxville plant-based restaurant plans food in Old City

Vegetarian and plant-based foods are not the same thing. 

An Oreo technically is vegetarian, Jenna Baker told Knox News, but that is not the type of food she plans on bringing to her new fast-casual and plant-based restaurant, Vidl, scheduled to open spring 2022 in the Old City. 

The business will be located in the former home of Blühen Botanicals at 111 E. Jackson Ave. and will offer dine-in and to-go meals that promote good health.

Jenna Baker is photographed in the space where Vidl, Baker's fast-casual and plant-based restaurant, will open in Blühen Botanicals' former space at 111 E. Jackson Ave in Knoxville's Old City.

The restaurant also will offer wellness education, and its name is an interpretative spelling of “victual,” an archaic word for “food.”

Baker plans for customers of her already-established boxed meal service to pick up orders from the new space by the end of January.

The take-home meals, packaged as Be Well Boxes, come with ingredients for salads, plant-based entrees, soups and desserts that can make between 10 and 20 meals. 

Baker has been selling

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Chef Kevin Lee appears on Food Network Sunday

Chef Kevin Lee knew 2022 was going to be an important year, and confirmation arrives Sunday night when he appears on a new Food Network cooking competition.

The longtime executive chef at Vast and corporate chef for The Social Order Dining Collective was already working daily on opening his first restaurant, but last week he got confirmation the segment he shot last summer of  “Alex vs. America” would air this weekend.

“Alex vs. America” is a new program, combining elements of Food Network hit shows “Chopped” and “Beat Bobby Flay.”

Chef Alex Guarnaschelli, who is no stranger to Oklahoma City, is the star of the show, taking on chefs from around the country in weekly mystery-basket cooking competitions with a $15,000 prize at stake.

Hosted by chef Eric Adjepong, “Alex vs. America” airs at 9 p.m. Sunday on Food Network with episodes available on demand via  Discovery+. Guarnaschelli, a frequent

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