— From the pages of FLL#32 • Photography by Will Marks • Fashions by TMB
Myles Powell isn’t your average civil engineer. By day, he explores new technologies in the gas industry for UGI Utilities; by night, he is in hot pursuit of his MBA at Penn State Berks. And in between, he somehow finds the time to master the art of cooking, develop a line of gourmet sauces, and compete on the Food Network show, America’s Best Cook. As for sleep, I’m not sure he knows the meaning of the word.
I first met Myles at a fantasy football draft party. I was there as a spectator, but I mostly just spectated the food table. Among the various chips and dips, there was a tray of absolutely amazing buffalo wings, and I immediately drafted them to Team Plate, who traded them to Team Mouth. The commentators all agreed that it was an excellent decision.
When I asked Myles where he got the wings, he surprised me by saying he’d made them himself using his dad’s recipe. Not that engineers are incapable of cooking (my wife is an engineer), but they don’t often achieve the level of kitchen sorcery that Myles is at. His skill with a stove often earns him double-take reactions like mine—in fact, he named his cooking blog after a phrase he hears regularly: “OMG, you can cook?!?!”
Myles has only been blogging his kitchen adventures for a little over a year, but food has always been one of his passions. Since both of his parents cook, it was only natural that he’d don the apron himself one day. “When I was young,” he says, “I’d ask my mom to pick me up and hold me over the stove so I could see what’s cooking. That’s probably one of my earliest memories.”
It wasn’t until his senior year at college that Myles began cooking in earnest. Fresh off of an internship at Whiting-Turner, he returned to the University of Delaware with some extra funds and used them to stock his pantry. “I started exploring and doing things I’d never done before,” he says, and when the cash ran out, so did his ingredients. But the spice must flow, so after graduation he accepted a full-time position at UGI, and hasn’t stopped cooking since.
Hitting the Sauce
When he’s not preparing drool-worthy dishes for his blog, Myles has been focusing on homemade sauces. It started with his buffalo wings—he brought a batch of them to a photo shoot, and everyone raved about the buffalo sauce afterward. They told him to bottle it, and that’s just what he plans to do.
After that, Myles decided to handcraft a barbecue sauce—something unique. A friend from England recommended the combination of pomegranate juice and hot sauce, but that might have been a little too outside the box. “It was a crazy idea,” he admits. Don’t try it at home.
Myles moved on and dabbled with other flavors, ultimately settling on an infusion of raspberry. He sent out prototype bottles of raspberry barbecue to coworkers, college classmates, and friends across the country, requesting their feedback and tweaking the recipe for the next batch. Nearly fifty bottles of sauce circulated during that stage.
Now, he’s almost ready to bottle the buffalo and raspberry barbecue sauces. The recipes are finalized, the labels are designed, and only a few details remain. Then he’ll begin submitting them to competitions and selling them in local markets, so keep your eye out! (UPDATE: The sauces are available at Zest! in Lititz & online at Etsy)
The Duck of Doom
While searching for recipe contests online, Myles came across an open casting call for a new Food Network show. He watches the Food Network religiously (especially Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives), so he took a chance and applied. Three weeks and a food test later, he was in New York City, filming America’s Best Cook.
“I’ll never forget getting miked up backstage,” says Myles, “because at that point we still hadn’t seen the set, we still weren’t 100% sure what was gonna happen.”
Once the cameras were rolling, the contestants were divided by region and paired with celebrity chefs. Myles and the East team were mentored by Chef Alex Guarnaschelli, of Chopped and Iron Chef America. She was down to earth and encouraging, Myles says. “I didn’t feel like I was talking to a celebrity, I just felt like I was talking to another person.”
The four contestants from the East were each given 30 minutes to plan and prepare a meal using duck. Myles, who had never cooked duck before, pan-seared the fowl and served it in a barbecue sauce of his own invention. Chef Alex complimented his sauce, but the duck didn’t fly. His goose, unlike the duck, was cooked.
Ready to Serve
Although he didn’t win, Myles is no flash in the pan, and he’s more motivated than ever to hone his craft. The day after he came home from NY, he challenged duck to a rematch and kicked it to the curb. He texted a photo of the finished dish to Chef Alex, and she sent her approval, effectively redeeming him. Myles’ recipe for pan-roasted duck, along with many other mouth-watering and bacon-wrapped dishes, can be found on his blog. But he does offer a caveat: “My recipes… they’re not healthy. I call ’em ‘buttgusters.’ If I didn’t go to the gym every day, I’d grow immensely.”