The International Biscuit Festival attracts biscuit makers from lots of different culinary backgrounds and baking specialties. One of this year's competitors who was a pre-med major in college until he followed his calling to cook.
Now he owns the Plaid Apron restaurant in Sequoyah Hills. It is Drew McDonald's latest stop on his culinary journey. He earned culinary and business degrees and worked at Blackberry Farm, the Hermitage, and even in New Zealand before settling down in Knoxville.
"Here we are in Knoxville at the Plaid Apron celebrating our third year anniversary the 23rd. So next week," Drew McDonald said food is his calling.
"I thoroughly enjoy cooking. There's just something about being able to use your hands to produce something that's completely different than what a customer expects to an extent," he said.
The Plaid Apron's entry in the International Biscuit Festival is unexpected.
"We try to do something that isn't normal," he said.
Normal isn't bad, it's just simple. That's the usual offering at the Plaid Apron. It's something pastry Chef Stephanie Russo does every day.
"We use lard. We use real butter. Flour. Baking powder. And Buttermilk. We use Cruze Farm buttermilk. It's just getting those ratios situated. Those are the five essential ingredients," he said. "If it has to have butter and jelly and all sorts of stuff on it then it's not that spectacular of a biscuit. If you can eat a biscuit by itself and it be satisfying then that's our goal."
Their Biscuit Fest offering won't be simple.
"We've pretty much taken our buttermilk biscuit and added pretty much one of the only true native fruits to the Americas: the pawpaw," he said. "We're going to a make a pawpaw and pecan biscuit with a Tennessee whiskey and sorghum caramel to go over it so it's going to be a sweeter biscuit."
This orange stuff is pawpaw Drew got about 35 miles from Knoxville.
"They're almost like a cross between as far as flavor goes between a mango and a banana so they are very pronounced and pungent," he said.
Expect competition among the biscuit makers.
"In this industry there's pressure all the time but if you're not cool with that you have no business being in it," he said. "As they say if you can't handle the heat get out of the kitchen."
Just don't expect the kitchen at The Plaid Apron to start offering the special pawpaw pecan biscuits.
"It's kind of a one time deal so if you want those you've got to come down to Biscuit Fest," he said.