Ranch’s ‘gourmet cowboy’ is new TV star

SPECIAL TO THE SENTINEL/Food Network—Lenny McNab was crowned champion of the “Food Network Star” and will get his own show on the cable channel. McNab said producers agreed to work around his schedule as executive chef at a hunting ranch northeast of Grand Junction.

The Food Network has gone country.

Lenny McNab, the cowboy hat and belt buckle-wearing executive chef of the Kessler Canyon hunting ranch near De Beque, was crowned champion of “Food Network Star” during Sunday night’s finale, earning him a new Food Network show.

“Lenny’s magnetic personality, culinary chops and cowboy swagger made him stand out in this very talented crowd from the beginning,” Bob Tuschman, general manager and senior vice president of Food Network, said in a news release.

Reached on telephone Monday, McNab, 43, said no specifics have been discussed about when his show will start, but he isn’t leaving Kessler Canyon.

“TV won’t pay at the beginning, not enough to sustain me,” McNab said. “They have no problem working around my schedule. They know I can’t quit my job, and they don’t want to pay me a ton of money this year.”

Billed as the “gourmet cowboy,” McNab’s outgoing personality and ability to cook endeared him to Food Network stars Alton Brown, Giada De Laurentiis and Bobby Flay, who served as judges and mentors on the show.

“There’s not another Lenny at Food Network,” Brown said on a video posted at foodnetwork.com. In the same video, Flay said he’s not sure there’s another McNab in the world.

As much as McNab impressed network people, however, he won by audience vote.

“The one thing I want to share with all those crazy cats out here on the Western Slope is how heartwarming and honestly baffled I am at their support of me and their votes,” said McNab, who has been recognized at airports and signed an autograph for a woman at Alpine Bank in Grand Junction. “I would never have won this without them. ... I’m super excited about my fans. Even hearing myself say that makes me giggle inside.”

Reflecting back on the season that just wrapped, McNab pointed to the June 1 premiere and his chicken-fried lobster on French toast with sweet corn gravy and a maple-onion reduction as one of the best bites he made, particularly with time constraints.

“Oh man, it was like the French angels had descended from a French toast cloud,” McNab said. “Alton Brown licked his plate.”

But it wasn’t until about halfway through the season, when the show moved to Las Vegas for a few episodes, that McNab first sensed he had a chance to win.

He bellyflopped into a pool on an episode and “I remember the 2½ seconds underwater and everything muted around me, and I felt right there that this is where I needed to be in life. I came out like a baptized man.”

“Food Network Star” was filmed for more than three months earlier this year, but Kessler Canyon hunting ranch, 4410 County Road 209, was closed from January through April anyway, so McNab didn’t have to quit his job.

“I think that was the Lord looking out for me,” he said.

At Kessler Canyon, McNab cooks for guests but also hosts a Friday night “dinnertainment,” as he called it, open to the public. Reservations are required.

“Shoot, now they’ve got a Food Network Star,” McNab said.


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