‘Top Chef’ Champion Kelsey Barnard Clark’s Prize-Winning Fried Catfish

‘Top Chef’ Champion Kelsey Barnard Clark

If the thought of crunchy yet tender catfish gets you excited and hungry, you’re in for a treat. Top Chef’s champion Kelsey Barnard Clark has the perfect recipe for all you fried catfish lovers out there. The talented Alabama-born and raised chef recently released her debut cookbook, hoping to share her favorite recipes with home cooks around the world. Her signature recipe is a late-summer fish fry that’ll easily steal the spotlight of any menu. Here’s how to make it yourself!


  • 3 lb. catfish, cut into 6 oz. fillets (cleaned, skin removed, patted dry)
  • 5 c. buttermilk
  • 1 c. dill pickle juice
  • 2 c. fine ground cornmeal
  • 3 c. all-purpose flour
  • 8 to 10 dashes Crystal hot sauce
  • 2 tbsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tbsp. celery salt
  • 1 tbsp. onion powder
  • 1 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • Canola oil, for frying (8 to 10 c.)
  • Salt

‘Green Goddess Dressing’

  • Green Goddess Dressing
  • 1 c. mayonnaise
  • ½ c. chopped cucumber
  • ½ c. chopped onion
  • ½ ripe avocado
  • ¼ c. fresh dill fronds
  • ¼ c. fresh parsley
  • ¼ c. fresh cilantro
  • ¼ c. canola or grapeseed oil
  • 2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ tsp celery salt
  • Salt

How to Make This Fried Catfish Recipe

Fried Catfish

Prep the Catfish

  1. Grab a pan, a flat dish, or a big ziplock bag and combine the pickle juice, buttermilk, and hot sauce inside. Put the catfish in the mixture and let it brine for at least an hour (or overnight).
  2. Add the oil to a fryer or a deep pot and heat to 350°. Line a plate with paper towels (or use a cooling rack) to put the fried catfish on. Stir the cornmeal, flour, garlic and onion powder, cayenne, celery salt, and black pepper in a medium bowl. Coat the catfish.
  3. Deep fry the catfish for about 7 to 8 minutes until it’s golden brown and crispy on the outside. Put them on the paper towels or rack to absorb any excess oil. Sprinkle it with salt and serve immediately with a side of Green Goddess Dressing.

Prep the Dressing

To make the Green Goddess Dressing, you need to put everything in a food processor except the oil and salt. While it’s processing, slowly add the oil. Season with salt and serve immediately or store in a refrigerator for up to 4 days.