Editorial

Gordon Ramsay Uncharted Smoky Mountains: Where to watch, a show synopsis

Gordon Ramsay is easily one of my all-time favorite celebrity chefs. 

So when I found out he had recently visited the Great Smoky Mountains – my home turf – as part of his latest show, “Gordon Ramsay: Uncharted”, I couldn’t wait to tune in.

Read Also: Why are they called the Smoky Mountains?

First things first, “Uncharted” is unlike any of Ramsay’s other cooking shows. 

Instead of being filmed primarily in a kitchen with prepped ingredients, this show goes straight to the source.

“Uncharted” takes Ramsay on a trip around the world to places that he’s never been before. 

Each episode features a different location. And at each stop along the way, Ramsay meets local chefs, butchers, foragers and fishers who teach him not only how to cook like a local but how to actually source the food. 

On “Uncharted” we get to see Ramsay as we’ve never seen before as he hikes, climbs and dives his way around remote parts of the world in search of the freshest ingredients.

I always hesitate to comment on a celebrity’s personality when I don’t actually know the person in real life. But I have to say, even when seemingly out of his element, Ramsey seems to have a natural wonder, curiosity and excitement about him.

He even takes his many wipeouts in stride.

Over the past few seasons of “Uncharted” we’ve watched as Ramsey visits exotic locations in Peru, New Zealand, Hawaii, South Africa, Tasmania, India and Guyana just to name a few.

And in season three, episode six (S3E6) we finally get to see Ramsay explore our neck of the woods – The Great Smoky Mountains.

Gordon Ramsay (left) and chef, William Dissen, discuss community, food culture and cuisine while fly fishing in the Great Smoky Mountains of North Carolina (photo by National Geographic/Justin Mandel)

Where was this episode filmed? Is Gordon Ramsay in Asheville?

Editor’s Note: The following section contains spoilers. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.

This episode, which originally aired July 4, 2021, was largely filmed on the North Carolina side of the Smokies near Asheville. This is essentially where the Smokies blend into the Blue Ridge Mountains. 

Read Also: Are the Blue Ridge Mountains and Smoky Mountains the same?

The episode starts off with a dramatic scene as we watch Ramsay rappel off the side of a waterfall where he meets fellow Chef William Dissen.

Dissen is an award-winning chef and owner of The Market Place in Asheville. 

Dissen challenges Ramsey to a cookoff while the pair show off their fly fishing skills (or lack thereof) in a lake at the base of a giant waterfall.

If Ramsay proves to be the winner, Dissen agrees to hand over the keys to his Jeep. If Dissen wins, Ramsay agrees to fly him and his family out to London first class. 

And just like that, the scene is set and our journey begins.

Gordon Ramsey learns how to make moonshine
Gordon Ramsay gets a crash course in moonshine while visiting the Great Smoky Mountains of North Carolina (photo by National Geographic/Justin Mandel)

Local experts, chefs and dishes featured on the Great Smoky Mountains episode

Ramsay makes a few pitstops as he prepares for the big cookoff.

He kayaks with hand paddles down river rapids to catch crayfish (also known as crawfish) in homemade traps with Chef Keith. 

He forages for mushrooms with expert forager, Alan Muskat.

And then comes my personal favorite segment – watching Ramsay learn how to make moonshine the old-fashioned way from the owner of Howling Moon Distillery, Cody Bradford, and his father, Derrick.

Howling Moon Distillery is based in Asheville, NC.

If Howling Moon Distillery sounds familiar – there’s a reason. This isn’t their television debut. They were also featured in an episode of “Ride with Norman Reedus” back in 2016 on AMC.

That’s a distillery with an impressive knack for public relations if I’ve ever seen one.

They let Ramsay have a swig of 100 proof shine – otherwise known in these parts as white lightnin’. Seconds later he does a spit fake and exclaims “I feel like a flamethrower!”

He does however take a shine (moonshine joke) to the apple pie flavored variety.

Read Also: Is Moonshiners real? Does the TV show make real moonshine?

Ramsay learns how to make livermush
Matt (left), a local butcher, teaches Gordon Ramsay (right) how to make livermush, a food staple of Western North Carolina (photo by National Geographic/Justin Mandel)

Next, he meets up with Matt Helms from The Chop Shop Butchery (also located in Asheville, NC) who teaches Ramsey how to make livermush.

Side note – I grew up on the Tennessee side of the Smokies and have to admit I’ve never heard of livermush. I’m guessing it’s mostly a North Carolina thing. 

Livermush is compromised of pork shoulder, liver and pigs feet. The ingredients are combined with cornmeal to create a patty-like texture before it’s slapped on a fluffy breakfast biscuit. 

Ramsay’s final stop was the Cherokee Indian Reservation inside the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to meet up with Malea who teaches him how to make Hominy – a traditional Cherokee Indian dish.

The final cookoff
Gordon Ramsay (standing left) and chef William Dissen (standing right) serve their guests during the final cook in the Smoky Mountains of North Carolina (photo by National Geographic/Justin Mandel)

The final cookoff menu items

At the end of the episode, Ramsay and Dissen meet back up to prepare two southern dishes for the experts and guests who appeared throughout the course of the episode. 

The guests serve as the final judges in this friendly cooking competition.

Gordon’s final menu included:

  • Livermush on a “scone” (aka a crispy biscuit) with pickled onions and fried quails egg
  • Hand foraged mushrooms
  • Hominy with smoked ham
  • Crayfish finished with apple pie moonshine

Dissen’s final menu included:

  • Sunburst rainbow trout
  • Griddle cakes
  • Crayfish with sour corn and country ham relish
  • Wild mushrooms with gratin

Ultimately, Dissen, the local favorite, wins the competition. 

That’ll teach ya not to make our fluffy Southern biscuits crispy Ramsay … don’t say you weren’t warned about that. But we love you anyway.

Livermush biscuits
Gordon Ramsay’s livermush on scones topped with pickled onions and fried quail eggs (photo by National Geographic/Justin Mandel)

Where to watch Gordon Ramsay Uncharted: The Great Smoky Mountains

You can watch a free behind-the-scenes clip from Gordon Ramsay’s “Unchartered: The Great Smoky Mountains” in the embedded video below courtesy of Gordon Ramsay himself.

The full episode is available now on Hulu (with live TV add-on) and Disney+. You may also be able to catch the occasional rerun on National Geographic. Check your local listings.

Did you catch The Great Smoky Mountains episode of “Uncharted”? What did you think? Let us know in the comments below.

Why is there a Dolly Parton statue? A brief history, where to find it

There’s a bit of danger in commissioning a statue. 

First, of a practical nature, what if something isn’t quite right?

I’m thinking about the infamous bust of soccer player Christian Renaldo. Which turned one of the best-looking men in the world into an evil-eyed psycho.

Instead of a tribute, whoever commissioned that work got infinite rounds of mocking internet memes and a front-page listing in the book of cautionary tales. 

But there are other dangers. If the subject of the statue is living, there’s a chance that something could go wrong. We’ll call this the OJ Simpson corollary.

In 1990, either the city of Buffalo or the University of Southern California would have been perfectly justified in commissioning a statue to honor a favorite son. 

Just a couple of years later, all they would have had was a very difficult-to-explain landmark. 

But there are also times that creating a statue to honor a native son or daughter is a no-brainer. Such is the case with the Dolly Parton.

Dolly Parton’s statue is located at the Sevier County courthouse where it regularly receives seasonal decor such as this festive lei necklace for Independence Day (photo by Alaina O’Neal/TheSmokies.com)

Where is the statue of Dolly Parton located?

Dolly Parton’s statue is located on the grounds of the Sevier County courthouse in downtown Sevierville. 

When the statue was dedicated in 1987, Dolly was already one of the most beloved women in the world.

A talented songwriter, singer, musician and actress, she was just embarking on an endeavor to show off her business acumen as Silver Dollar City was rechristened Dollywood. 

Tack on her legendary philanthropy efforts and the only issue with Dolly’s statue is that there aren’t more of them. Sevier County should issue a series of Dolly statues at various stages of her life and locate them all around the county. 

Dolly is truly a native daughter that can’t be celebrated enough. 

But let’s return to the statue we do have, that made its debut more than 30 years ago.

Now, I don’t like to brag. But I’ve seen a few statues in my day, and in my humble opinion, this one is among the best I’ve seen. 

Dolly Parton’s statue was created by artist and sculptor Jim Gray (photo by Alaina O’Neal/TheSmokies.com)

Who created the statue of Dolly Parton in Sevierville?

Created by Jim Gray, the statue is an excellent representation of Dolly’s spirit. 

There’s a joy of heart present that transcends the cold bronze of which it is made. It reminds me, honestly, of Peter Pan’s statue in Hyde Park in London.

It captures a puckish spirit, that I find befitting a young Dolly. I can picture her running around the mountains like something out of an East Tennessee Shakespeare play. 

Dolly is more than a local girl made good. She’s a sprite, a fairy, a being of light and magic who has made the world a better place. 

In this imagining, Dolly sits on a rock, hair pulled back and holding her beloved guitar.

Her rolled-up jeans give the impression of her bare feet dipping into a frigid mountain stream on a warm summer day. 

A butterfly rests near one of the guitar’s frets and Dolly looks off into the distance with a beaming smile. 

In a way, it’s interesting that this is the season of Dolly’s life they chose to portray. I guess it makes sense, logically. A young Dolly with big dreams.

But this isn’t the Dolly most of America knows.

This is an unadorned young woman. Not the giant star who built her reputation on elaborate outfits, outlandish talent and a bawdy sense of humor that charmed the rest of the world. 

What did Dolly Parton say about the statue?

In a Youtube video uploaded in 2011, Dolly talks about her statue.

“I’ve had the good fortune of getting to travel all over this world. I’ve had all kinds of wonderful awards. But I think probably one of the things I’m proudest of in my whole career, my whole life, really, is this statue of me in the courthouse yard in Sevierville.”

She says in the video that her dad would try to humble her a bit by telling her, “To your fans, you may be some sort of an idol, but to the pigeons down at the courthouse, you’re just another outhouse.”

“My dad was so sweet, he was proud of it,” Dolly continued.

“They told me later before my dad died … he used to sneak out at night, late after the town had kinda calmed down and go down and scrub the pigeon poop off my statue. I know that you think I’m tryin’ to be funny, but I’m not, cause I cried my eyes out when I heard that.”

It’s been 30 years since the statue was built. I imagine she’s used to it, but I wonder what it’s like for Dolly to roll past that likeness of herself every time she comes back to town.

It must be odd to have a life-size version of your younger self, frozen in time ready to star in dozens of selfies at a moment’s notice. 

I picture Dolly going there on quiet evenings and communing with herself.

I’ve long been told – and believed – that Dolly is able to move around Sevierville, and her park, virtually unrecognized without makeup and wigs.

I like the idea that she can shed the butterfly wings she painted for herself and crawl back into the comfortable cocoon of who she was before the world knew her name.

I like the idea that the young mountain girl forever perched on that rock can visit with the woman she became.

Have you ever seen the Dolly Parton statue in Sevierville? Let us know what you think about it in the comments below!

Knoxville Smokies: Is the Tennessee baseball team coming back home?

When we moved to East Tennessee, there was no such thing as the Tennessee Smokies baseball club. 

They were still the K-Jays, affiliated with the Blue Jays system and playing in the decrepit Bill Meyer Stadium. 

We enjoyed going to games there – though honestly, I’d enjoy going to baseball games anywhere.

Bill Meyer wasn’t what you’d call “nice” but it had personality. It included a huge old factory in the outfield, giving home run hitters something to aim at. 

The K-Jays – which had been the Knox Sox previously – began in 1980.

But playing in that old stadium made them feel more established than they were. 

In 1993, they reclaimed the historic Knoxville Smokies moniker and the wheels began turning on a process that would move the team from Knoxville up I-40 to Sevier County in 2000. 

“Chicago Dogs”, a nod to the team’s partnership with the Chicago Cubs, are served at Smokies Stadium in Kodak, Tenn. (photo by John Gullion/TheSmokies.com)

Who owns the Smokies baseball team?

Smokies Stadium has been the team’s home now for 21 years. There have been significant improvements over those years.

The team flirted with different affiliations, settling on a successful partnership with the Cubs in 2007. 

The Smokies began adopting some Chicago traditions like Old Style beer and Chicago style hot dogs and Italian beef sandwiches. 

They even play “Go Cubs Go” after a home win. 

It’s been a successful partnership for both. 

The Cubs have a massive fan base.

It’s a fan base that increased when WGN was broadcasting Cubs games in the early days of cable.

Cubs fans on vacation often stop by the ballpark to see the future Cubbies in action.

In fact, when the Cubs broke their century-old World Series drought in 2016, many of the stars were former Smokies players, including Kris Bryant and Kyle Schwarber. 

But while the partnership between the Smokies, Sevier County and the Cubs has been outwardly successful, an ownership change led to rumblings about a possible relocation. 

In 2013, Smokies baseball was purchased by Boyd Sports, led by Randy Boyd.

Boyd is a former gubernatorial candidate, current President of The University of Tennessee and a very, very rich dude. He’s also a Knoxville guy.

And the rumor is that he wants to return the Smokies to East Knoxville. 

Are the Tennessee Smokies moving to Knoxville?

At first they were rumors, but now it appears it is a fait accompli.

No official announcement has been made. But Boyd and his people are openly discussing a multi-use park that will include apartments and restaurants.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee included $13.5 million for the ballpark in his 2021-2022 budget.

It’s a funding plan for a $65-million ballpark anchoring a proposed $142-million mixed-use development.

County and city governments are openly working with Boyd and his people, forming a Sport Authority to consider options. 

Once the deal is made, it will only be a matter of time until Smokies Stadium sits empty, possibly happening as early as 2023.  

The Smokies Baseball Field
Taking in a baseball game with the family at Smokies Stadium in Kodak, Tenn. has been a time honored tradition since 2000 (photo by John Gullion/TheSmokies.com)

What do the locals think about the move?

On the one hand, it seems like something of a tragedy.

The current spot, right on the interstate, is regionally accessible and great for tourists. And it has been a boon to baseball in East Tennessee for 20 years. 

On the other hand, it’s hard not to see the beauty in Boyd’s plan.

East Knoxville could use the development. It’s not far from the former Bill Meyer Stadium and not too far from the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame.

Knoxville has an interesting and diverse economic community downtown and in the Old City. The ballpark would be a real shot in the arm for the area. 

Also, the park is aesthetically pleasing. 

A baseball game is a moving work of art.

While some of the old stadiums had real character, even on its best day, Smokies Stadium is not old enough to be interesting and not modern enough to make the kind of money Boyd envisions with his East Knoxville location. 

There are also faint rumors that the Tennessee Vols could start playing home games there instead of doing massive renovations to Lindsey Nelson Stadium.

With the Vols playing in the College World Series, there is legitimate support to get them in a new facility, and the Boyd baseball palace wouldn’t be far from campus. 

What will happen to the Smokies Stadium if the baseball team leaves? 

Hard to say.

I can’t imagine bringing another minor league team, even one from a smaller league to that spot.

Without the Cubs backing them and the lower league schedule, I don’t know that it would make the money necessary to justify keeping the park on such valuable land. 

Smokies Stadium has hosted a few concerts, but it was built for baseball. I have a hard time seeing it as a long term viable outdoor music venue.  

The most likely scenario, in my opinion, is the most depressing. 

They’re gonna pave centerfield and put in a parking lot.

The Cherokee Tribe has purchased much of the surrounding land, land that was essentially stolen from the Cherokee generations ago. 

Read Also: New 200-acre “experiential destination” announced for Sevier County

Across the interstate there are plans for a massive convention center-type development with room for more. 

Recently, the Cherokee announced plans for a massive Buc-ee’s convenience store for the site. The store will be the largest such Buc-ee’s in the world.

The 74,000-square-foot flagship Buc-ee’s Family Travel Center, complete with 120 fueling positions, EV Charging stations and a car wash over 250 feet long, will anchor the 200-acre plan.

The development has been named “The 407: Gateway to Adventure.” 

A release from Kituwah, LLC and Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians says additional development possibilities include a world-class golf attraction, a go-cart facility and a distillery experience.

If Tennessee ever legalizes gambling, the Cherokee, who have a massively successful partnership with Harrah’s in North Carolina, may look to duplicate that success on the land they own above the stadium. 

There may be a day at some point in the future where the current location of Smokies Stadium is converted into parking for whatever plans the Cherokee Tribe decides to put into motion.

So are the Tennessee Smokies moving?

Not yet. Not officially. But you don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind is blowing. 

It seems inevitable.  

What do you think about the possibility of the Smokies Baseball team moving to Knoxville? Let us know in the comments!