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Farm Expo featured chef has a passion for cooking

Brandon Paykamian • Dec 20, 2018 at 11:51 PM

Alex Bradley Jr., 32, has always been drawn to the culinary world, but it took some time for him to fully commit himself to cooking.

After graduating from East Tennessee State University with a bachelor’s degree in broadcasting in 2007 and producing cooking shows on campus, Bradley spent years working in the television and news business with WKPT, Fox 39 and other outlets, where he worked as a producer, reporter and anchor.

Eventually, the Elizabethton resident decided it was time for a career change so he could follow his true dreams. He decided he wanted to promote his cooking and recipes on his website, www.alexbradleyjr.com, when a friend of his talked about starting their own business selling items such as cooking utensils, dishes and mugs.

“I’ve been cooking my whole life as kind of like a hobby, pretty much,” he said. “I’ve had 10, 11 years of experience in the TV industry. I got to a point where I got tired of doing news and wanted to branch away and do my own thing for a bit.

“I was helping one of my friends build her business up, and she suggested that I started my own thing with my cooking and do little videos featuring my cooking and recipes. That was two years ago, and from that, it just kind of exploded,” he continued. “I was just tired of news, and I wanted to entertain people.”

Bradley recently finished culinary school at Rel Maples Institute for Culinary Arts in Pigeon Forge, where he continued to hone in on his passion. While in culinary school, Bradley said he often had to sleep in his car after the long commute.

“I didn’t have money to pay for a hotel room every night, so I would sleep in my car and go to class the next day,” he said.

Bradley is now preparing himself to cook for the annual Appalachian Farm Expo at the Ron Ramsey Regional Agricultural Center, where he will cook a variety of dishes on Jan. 12 and 13. The event, which features a variety of local food vendors, farmers and family fun activities, is set for 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Jan. 12 and 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Jan. 13.

Bradley will prepare pizza, chili, different chicken dishes, meatloaf and desserts like ice cream and his family apple pie recipe. He said many of the ingredients are local and can be cooked from things straight from a home garden.

“I try to cook from my experience of being a chef and what I can bring to the table — it’s a farm-to-table type of thing,” he said. “I also try to bring my family recipes into it, like the apple pie recipe passed down from my grandmother. It’s a family tradition.

“It’s a chance to get to interact with the local community with different vendors and just have a good old time.”

After a couple years of finally being fully immersed in the culinary world and his passion for cooking, Bradley said he’s been excited to prepare for the event — a milestone in his career as a chef. He recalled a meeting with celebrity chef Paula Deen at a book signing years ago that drove him to keep pushing to become a better chef.

“Dreams really do come true. I was ready to give up after hitting bump after bump in the road. One day, I met Paula Deen for a book signing, and she stopped me and she knew something was going on. She said, ‘I don’t know what’s wrong, but just don’t give up.’”

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