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Currence, top tailgate chef

Not many people would consider the combination of catfish and cheesecake as a tailgate dish, but local chef John Currence is making Ole Miss “groving” known for it.
Currence’s recipe has become a front-runner for the University of Mississippi in the tailgating cookoff contest against the other 11 SEC schools.  
The contest, hosted by Tony Chachere and CSS Sports, is a competition between the schools for their best and most well-known tailgate meal. Three winners will be declared the “Cook-off Champions,” but only one will be declared the Grand Prize winner and their university’s recipe will appear on SportsNite on CSS.
The recipe chosen to represent Ole Miss is the catfish and Tasso savory cheesecake from Oxford’s City Grocery restaurant.
Beth Ziegenhorn from Yoknapatawpha Arts Council submitted the recipe from Square Table, the cookbook sponsored by the Arts Council that highlights both the university and Oxford.
The recipe was created by Chef John Currence at his restaurant, City Grocery, on the Square.
“Tasso is a smoked spice ham and gives it a wonderful Cajun flavor,” Wayne Andrews, director of the YAC said. “John is from Louisiana, and it gives it that nice Delta catfish and Louisiana spice. It’s something that is going to look amazing at a tailgate party at Ole Miss.”
Currence won the James Beard Award in 2009 and is the chef behind Boure, City Grocery, Snackbar and Big Bad Breakfast.
According to Time magazine, the James Beard Award is like “the Oscars for food” – one of the country’s most coveted honors for chefs.
“It’s an honor to have a James Beard award-winning chef as an active supporter of the arts,” Andrews said.
Currence has been an active supporter of the arts community in Oxford, having served on the board for the YAC and a culinary asset in the making of the Square Table Cookbook.
He also supports Southern food and culture through the Southern Foodways Alliance, Yoknapatawpha Arts Council, Oxford Film Festival and Mississippi Restaurant Association.
“I am proud to represent my community in this contest,” Currence said in a release. “Square Table is an important fundraiser for the arts in our community, and I hope if you enjoy this recipe you will visit Oxford, enjoy the wonderful food, art and great college football weekends.”
Square Table Cookbook can be purchased for $35 through the Ole Miss Alumni Association, the Square or directly from the YAC at www.oxfordarts.com.
“We may not win every single game, but we’ve never lost a party!,” Ziegenhorn said. “Please help us and vote for Ole Miss and your school so we can win the tailgate party.”
So far in the competition LSU, Tennessee and Kentucky have been ranked highly with Ole Miss.
Students can vote every day for the tailgate meal of their choice on www.css-sports.com. The deadline for the contest is Nov. 11, and the winners will be announced Nov. 18.