What are your Valentine's Day dinner plans? Are you the type to make a reservation at the trendiest fine dining establishment in your area? Or do you prefer to impress your significant other with an amazing meal at home? If you're the former, Chef Darnell Ferguson of Food Network's Superchef Grudge Match has you covered.

The celebrity cooking talent is not only the face for the new series premiering on February 7, 2023, at 9p ET, but he also serves as co-host of the new season of Worst Cooks in America: Viral Sensations. What many don't know is that his love for cooking stems from watching chefs like Emeril Lagasse on the Food Network as a kid.

"I didn't know what I wanted to be, I just knew what I didn't want to be or the things around me. I started watching Lagasse on TV, and I was intrigued by the chef coat and the uniformity," Ferguson shares. "At the time, I was doing bad in high school, and I had a friend in vocational school for culinary arts. So, I decided to enroll as well for my eleventh grade year."

One of his first assignments was to cut a potato into different shapes, and his instructor expressed that he handled a knife better than most pros. It was that simple encouragement that further piqued the Kentucky-native's interest into pursuing a career.

"What she didn't know is that my whole life I had been average. I had been waiting my whole life for someone to tell me I was special. When she told me that, it changed my life. It was no looking back from there. Now, I'm thirty years in."

With such an extensive—and impressive—resume, it's only right that we tap the Food Network star for a mouthwatering Valentine's Day dish. After all, he describes his cooking style as urban eclectic. So, prepare to be blown away.

"I use ingredients that the masses know, but do things that they've never seen or heard before," Darnell Ferguson explains.

Chef Darnell Ferguson's Meatloaf Cupcakes

Meatloaf cupcakes by Chef Darnell Ferguson. Image: Courtesy of Darnell Ferguson.

Recipe yields about 12 cupcakes


  • Ground Lamb
  • Ground Pork
  • Ground Ribeye
  • Minced Garlic
  • Mango Chutney
  • 3 eggs
  • Panko Breadcrumbs
  • Grated Parmesan Cheese
  • Coarse Cracked Black Pepper
  • Kosher Salt
  • Flatleaf Parsley
  • Cayenne
  • Onion Powder
  • Bacon fat

  • Idaho Potatoes
  • Irish Butter
  • Boursin Cheese
  • Heavy Cream
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Candied Bacon
  • Thick-cut Bacon
  • Brown Sugar

Maple Heat Sauce
  • Red Hot Sauce
  • Red Dye
  • Maple Syrup
  • Smoked Bourbon Brown Sugar (if not just brown sugar)
  • Water
  • Cornstarch

  • Micro-edible Flowers
  • Assortment of Microgreens

Kitchen Equipment Required 

Gold aluminum cupcake tins (if not, silver); piping bag with a medium star tip; large mixer; whisk; peeler; spatula; squirt bottle; food processor, , cast iron skillet; 2” paint brush; baking sheet; rice cooker; 10”-12” skinny rectangle plate for presentation


  • Get meat to room temperature.  While that’s happening, take Parmesan cheese and breadcrumbs and blend them in a food processor or blender.  You can also peel potatoes, dice them up small, and begin boiling. Purée mango chutney with a little water so it can
    be a thinner consistency.
  • Mix your meats with your seasoning, breadcrumbs, mango chutney purée, and egg in a bowl.  Once combined, scoop them out, roll them into balls, and cook on the cast iron skillet using the bacon fat.
    Prepare candied bacon; set oven to 450 degrees (convection if possible), place bacon on wire racks with sheet pan underneath.  Cook about 12 minutes until 80% complete, then sprinkle/toss with brown sugar & paprika mixture and cook for another 5 minutes until done.
  • Start the maple heat sauce: bring your hot sauce, brown sugar, and maple syrup to a simmer.  Then add a slurry (cornstarch and water) and the red food dye.  Once it thickens, allow to cool then place in a squirt bottle.
  • After about 20 minutes, potatoes should be done.  Strain them and use a ricer to mash them.  Melt butter, warm up heavy cream and add the cheese, mix the cream and butter into the potatoes and whisk.  Make sure potatoes aren’t too thin or runny because they need to be placed in the piping back.  Add salt and pepper, then add to piping bag.
  • Begin plating.  Paint the heat sauce on the plate.  On a separate plate, line up the gold aluminum tins, take the meatloaf and place in the tin.  Pipe the potatoes on top and drizzle the maple heat sauce on top of the potatoes, then add the diced up candied bacon. Decorate the cupcake with the micro-edible flowers, gold flakes, and microgreens.  Add the finished cupcake to the final plate.