Charlottesville’s own Laura Fonner has won the tournament of champions on Guy’s Grocery Games, which aired tonight, August 5, on the Food Network. Fonner first appeared on Guy’s Grocery Games in December, when she used her famous dumpling-making skills to take home the $20K top prize. This year, she was invited back to compete in a tournament of Guy’s Grocery Games champions on Summer Grillin’ Games.
On episodes beginning July 8, one chef was eliminated each week until only four remained. Fonner entered tonight’s final round on a roll, having won the $5,000 “best dish” prize in each of the prior two rounds, clinching a spot in the finals.
For the finale, Fonner and the other remaining chefs were given thirty minutes to shop for and prepare the “ultimate grilled feast.” To Fonner, the theme meant of course that most ingredients should be grilled, but also that they should be cohesive. Further complicating things were three required ingredients: frozen peaches, Worcestershire sauce, and corn. “I immediately thought of Mexican street corn and surf and turf, and then self edited as I cooked,” said Fonner. “Thirty minutes feels like ten when you are competitive cooking so I just went with flavors and ingredients I have used before and knew would go well with the challenge.”
After the thirty minutes were up, a panel of celebrity judges evaluated each feast, and then the chefs lined up for host Guy Fieri’s announcement of which chef would take home the $25,000 prize. “While I stood there waiting to hear who he would announce as the winner, I thought for sure I hadn’t won,” said Fonner. “My dish seemed so simple compared to what the other two chefs had made, so when he said my name, I honestly couldn’t believe it.”
Making the victory all the more remarkable is that Fonner does not even own a grill — unless you count her counter-top George Foreman one.
It’s been an eventful year for Fonner. After the Summer Grillin’ Games episodes were recorded in February, life changed fast. Just days later, a pandemic swept the nation, eventually leading Fonner to leave Duner’s, a restaurant where she had cooked for almost half of her life and which she was planning to buy. Instead, Fonner now has a food truck, Dumplin’ — featuring her award-winning dumplings.
The truck is a partnership with Champion Hospitality Group, which recently led to another collaboration. Demand for dumplings has been so high that her truck sells out quickly. As a solution, Fonner now makes the dumplings available every day through Champion Grill. Also on the new Champion Grill menu is Fonner’s creation that won “best dish” on Summer Grillin’ Games: egg rolls with root beer braised smoked turkey leg, jalapeno queso, and grilled vegetables, served with root beer bacon creme fraiche.
Along with the rest of the Champion Grill menu, Fonner’s dumplings and egg rolls are available every day 12pm – 9pm for takeout and delivery. Or, you can enjoy them onsite in the beer garden from 4 – 9 pm.
Congratulations to Laura Fonner, Charlottesville’s undefeated champion of Guy’s Grocery’ Games.