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Southern Grit (Antonus Achiellos/Contributed)

For the perfect roasted whole chicken—one that will convince your partner to propose or that will leave your mother-in-law pleading for your cooking secrets—fire up a hair dryer before sticking the bird in the oven.

Using the grooming device to dry the outside of a chicken is a quick-fire way to ensure crisp skin and juicy meat, says Kelsey Barnard Clark—a caterer, restaurateur, and “Top Chef” television cooking contest winner—in her new book, “Southern Grit.”

Her recipe for Roasted Chicken and Drippin’ Veggies, one of 100 in the new release, calls for cooking the chicken over corn, cabbage, field peas, cherry tomatoes, onion, and Conecuh sausage, so flavors dripping from above will sink in.

“It is, seriously, the best freaking roasted chicken ever,” she says via telephone interview. “And on top of that, pan-dripping veggies are God’s gift to mankind in my opinion. There’s nothing better than vegetables cooked in chicken fat. Truly.”

Clark, who grew up in Dothan and has deep roots in Mobile, started working in a catering kitchen as a teen. She’s cooked at top restaurants, including Café Boulud in New York City, and is the executive chef and owner of KBC, her monogrammed restaurant in downtown Dothan.

Riding high on her 2019 success on “Top Chef” season 16—becoming the first Southerner and fifth woman to win—Clark was ready to share some of her experiences from professional kitchens and lessons she learned from the generations of strong, nurturing women in her family.

Some dishes derive from notebooks of recipes passed down by her great-grandmother Mildred aka “Sweetie,” great-grandmother Lil, and grandmother June. “Southern Grit” is dedicated to them.

“The name tells you what it’s meant to be—Southern sweetness and Southern twang,” she says. “Southern everything but with the grit of a chef.”

Kelsey Barnard Clark (Antonus Achiellos/Contributed)

Clark’s book includes a Southerner’s take on gracious living, from how to be a domestic diva (do a load of laundry every day to help maintain an orderly environment), tend a lush garden (and 15 chickens, three rabbits, and two hives of bees), and effortlessly entertain (keep seasonally-themed monogrammed napkins handy for guests).

Juggling all that while raising two children and working one of the most demanding jobs around, she’s like a Southern version of Martha Stewart. “I’ve been called that a lot,” she says. “I think that’s the way I was raised.”

Clark’s chef side comes through clearly, not only in the techniques and preparations she shares, but also in the sometimes-colorful way she expresses that knowledge.

Southerners are, she writes, “frugal yet giving and have mastered the art of throwing a damn good party.” Recipes often produce “damn good” dishes; sometimes they’re even “freaking delicious.”

She’s like kettle corn—a little salty but mostly sweet.

“My mom gets mad at me all the time when she hears me say a cuss word,” Clark says, chuckling at the analogy. “People say I’m feisty. When you live in New York, even two years, it definitely hardens you. But you’ve got to have that kind of feistiness to survive in the chef world, especially being female.”

Chapters cover Happy Hour Bites and Sips (the latter both soft and spiked); Greens; Potatoes, Grains, and Pastas; Seafood; Eggs and Poultry; Pork and Beef; and Breads and Pastries.

Written for non-professional cooks, the dishes in “Southern Grit” are manageable—even its Chicken Liver Pate and Fig Jam recipe was inspired by her time working at Café Boulud.

She also shares practical skills, including a well-done visual guide to common kitchen knife cuts. Clark gives tutorials on canning and provides a checklist of basic ingredients and tools for a well-stocked Southern kitchen.

“Part of my goal was to make an accessible book that is fun to read, makes you want to cook, and has stories that make you laugh,” Clark says. “I tell people all you need to make this book happen is one good pan, ideally a cast-iron skillet, some wooden spoons, and a whisk.”

Clark will officially launch her cookbook with a family-style meal and live music on Sunday, August 14. Go to her website, chefkbc.com, for tickets and how to obtain copies of “Southern Grit.”