Seven Questions With Cheap Eats Host Ali Khan

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When you think of Jackson Hole food, budget friendly isn’t often a word associated with it. But the Cooking Channel tasked itself with finding those “cheap” dining options, and is airing an episode of its “Cheap Eats” on Thursday evening. We chatted with host Ali Khan about how he picked this town for his Mountain Feast episode.

What are your requirements for classifying something as a “cheap eat?”

For the purposes of the show, as long as it fits into our daily budget of $35 for four meals – it’s fair game! Beyond the show’s format, I strongly believe that value is relative. For some folks, finding the perfect $20 bistro steak is the equivalent to locking in the food truck that serves the $5 breakfast burrito. If there is a restaurant or food truck that is going the extra mile of sourcing quality ingredients, I have to account for that. That being said, if I’m being a real penny pincher, I’ll give you some solid prices on popular foods:
Tacos: $2 or less
Burgers $8 or less
High end cupcakes/donuts – if you can get one for $3 or less: #winning
Dinner entrées: $16 or less. We found a serious Cioppino for $11, so the deals are out there!!

Jackson Hole is known for being expensive. Why did you decide to do an episode here?
Well that’s part of the challenge! But first I have to address a major theme of season of Cheap Eats, which was exploring up and coming food scenes. Now Jackson Hole, like other winter play land destinations, has been known for serving up serious fine dining. But our research team was picking up intel on really great food that was priced reasonably, and that is a relatively new phenomenon for the area. With $35 for 4 meals, you gotta be resourceful, but the truth is people are eating better than ever, and that is trickling down to more affordable price points. Still, Jackson Hole was a challenge! There were locals, at the restaurants we were filming at, who were scratching their heads on how we could pull this off!

Food shot of Smore, Berries and Cream, Powdered Sugar at Nom Nom Doughnu...

Which restaurants and what dishes were featured in the episode?
Breakfast: Persephone, Croque Madame
Lunch: Fried Chicken Shack, Bahn Mi Fried Chicken Sandwich
Snack: Nom Nom Doughnuts, Triple Berry Cheesecake Donut
Dinner: Kim’s Corner Cafe, Spicy Pork Rice Bowl

How did you select these places?
First off we are looking for great food and places that have yet to be featured on food television. This all starts with the intel — word of mouth, write ups, reviews etc. Then we have to actually find meals that will fit our budget, and then we approach the restaurants to see if they would like to be a part of the show. After that we pitch our selects to the network for final approval.

Why did you choose the dishes you chose?
As mentioned, the prices have to work with our daily budget of $35 for 4 meals. But beyond just finding the right prices, we want to make sure we are getting the full experience at the restaurant we go to. For example, at Kim’s Corner, we chose the spicy pork rice bowl. I have been to my fair share of Korean restaurants back when I lived in LA, and I had plenty of dae ji bulgogi to know that spicy pork is a seminal dish in the Korean food world.

When did you do the filming?
We shot in Jackson Hole at the very end of September – 9/29, 9/30 and 10/1. And it was as gorgeous as we imagined!

Was there anything surprising you discovered while here?
I had never been to Jackson Hole, so I would say the most surprising thing was just how beautiful the area is in person. We were in Bozeman just prior (which was similarly mesmerizing though a touch more arid) and we drove through Yellowstone, so you would think I had seen it all. And it wasn’t just the moose we spotted here and there that still lingers in my mind still but those beautiful aspen trees. In fact, that’s what surprised me the most — how beautiful those trees are in the fall.

 

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About Author

Also originally from the South, Cara Rank discovered cooking was a creative outlet that helped her relax after long days writing magazine and newspaper articles during the past eight years in Jackson. Really, she just missed Southern food. A lot. During a 12-year career as a journalist, Cara has won numerous awards for her work and has written about everything from rodeo queens to Dolly Parton tomatoes. She spends her weekends making jars of pickles and jam and amazing dinners for friends. She loves shishito peppers, Chicago-style hot dogs and elderflower-spiked cocktails.

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