Hats Off: Kelly English Named Ole Miss’s 2014 Outstanding Young Alum

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It’s been a banner year for chef Kelly English. His Grizzlies-inspired “Beat Yo Ass” Shrimp were featured in ESPN Magazine, and he was invited to do cooking demonstrations as a part of the Sports Illustrated Tailgate Tour. As if that weren’t enough, now English is winning an award from his alma mater, Ole Miss.

At Saturday night’s homecoming game against the University of Tennessee, English will receive the University of Mississippi’s 2014 Outstanding Young Alumnus Award. Each year, the award is given to a recent graduate who has shown exemplary leadership in both his career and his service to the University.

The Flyer recently caught up with English to talk about home ec, hangovers, and the science of good tailgating.

Flyer: Congratulations, Kelly! How’d you feel when you found out about the award?
Kelly: I was pretty floored. I was like, you know that I put salt on food, right? There’s a lot more important stuff than what I do. But no, it was a huge honor.

When you applied to Ole Miss, did you know you were gonna be a chef?
I started as a pre-law major. But I was paying my way by working in kitchens, and eventually I figured out that I liked that work a whole lot more than the idea of going to law school. Once I figured that out, I changed my major to Hospitality Management.

Except back then it was called Family and Consumer Sciences—so I basically have a degree in Home Ec.

What do you remember about college?
Oh gosh. I love where I went to school. My friends who went to other schools used to call it day camp; it was just such a serene and perfect place. And safe! I lived there for five years, and I never kept a key to my apartment.

So you were a pretty studious guy?
Let’s be brutally honest here. If you ask me about my college experience, studying would not be the first thing that came to mind. If I had to describe my college experience in one word, that word is “hung-over.”

Let’s talk about the Sports Illustrated gig.
It’s pretty sweet. It’s in conjunction with Sports Illustrated and Go RVing, where we go to different college campuses and do demos before games. I did one at Ohio State, the University of Iowa, and the University of Nebraska. I’m doing one at the UT-Alabama game next weekend. But I definitely took into account Ole Miss’ schedule, so I wouldn't have to miss any home games.

What food tips do you have for tailgating?
When you think about tailgating, you’ve gotta think about a couple things. First, you’ve gotta think about how long the food can last. It’s gotta be something that tastes good from 11am until 3pm, and it’s sitting out the whole time. Second, you’ve gotta make it as easy as you can on yourself. Because the worst thing you can do, as the host, is stand in the kitchen all day.

What are you bringing to the game on Saturday?
I still have to figure that out. Grits with pork grillades we’ve done a couple times. Composed salads are always great. We did a pumpkin and carrot salad with country ham. Things that people can pick up with their fingers. You don’t want things that people need a fork for. That’s what’s so beautiful about crackers and dip.

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