Rodney Murillo, culinary director for Davio’s Restaurants, is no stranger to television– he has been on Food Network’s Cutthroat Kitchen and Rewrapped, as well as made many appearances on local outlets. But when the invitation arrived to appear on Beat Bobby Flay, he knew he’d have to step up his game.
“You are competing with one of the best chefs in the world,” Murillio says. “[Flay] is very competitive – it was nothing but real competition for sure,” he says, adding that unlike in some cooking competitions, there are no second takes.
Beat Bobby Flay is a fast-paced battle with two parts. In round one, a pair of talented chefs face off, cooking a dish with a secret ingredient chosen by Flay. The winner earns the privilege of facing the Food Network star one-on-one, each working to create the best version of the challenger’s surprise signature dish.
Northshore asked Chef Murillo, a self-taught talent with a big job overseeing the kitchens at Davio’s seven restaurants, what it was like to go up against one of the biggest celebrity chefs in the country.
How did you prepare?
“It’s more about calming yourself down – a lot of people panic…. At home and at work, I would have somebody throw a random ingredient down on the table, then I would cook something using it in 15 minutes –not for the cooking aspect so much as for the clock, to see what I could do in 15 minutes. The last thing I wanted to do is not finish my dish.”
We know we have to watch the show to discover the secret ingredient, but how did you feel about Chef Flay’s challenge in round one?
“I was like, oh really? That? Shoot me now.…. Then I took a deep breath and thought about when I had come across that ingredient in a restaurant in the past and it became very simple.”
What is the hardest part?
“Before the show starts you, get just two minutes to look over all the ingredients in the pantry and in the refrigerator, and then they take you away, so you have to make a mental picture of what and where everything is quickly.…. So then you are trying to remember where everything is…. Looking for stuff takes a lot of time—but you make it work.”
What advantage does Flay have over his competitors?
“Bobby is so familiar with the [set] – they keep all the ingredients in the same spot for him all the time. [Contestants] get 15 minutes to cook in the first round, then a half hour if they are cooking against Bobby, but he does this three times a day [Ed. Note: Food Network tapes several episodes at a time] for two or three weeks every year. If he wants ground beef, he knows exactly where the ground beef is. If he wants chicken, he knows where the chicken is. That is where he gets extra time.”
What advantage did you have?
“I stole the pressure cooker. During the walkthrough, they said I could choose any piece of equipment I wanted. There was only one pressure cooker and I took it and used it to my best advantage.”
How did you choose the signature dish you would prepare to compete against Chef Flay if you won the first round?
“I really wanted to do a dish with foie gras, but they weren’t thrilled about doing foie gras on TV…. So I was given a choice of about 10 signature dishes that hadn’t appeared on the show…. I just happened to be very comfortable with one of those dishes. That’s how they come up with your quote-unquote favorite dish — it was kind of like pick your poison.”
Do you have more TV appearances planned?
I think for the Super Bowl, I will be doing the Today Show, and I am [a finalist] to appear on Chopped. Chopped is definitely the next step up – it is a whole month and it is the show you want to be on. It’s good to do these smaller shows to practice, but it is the Super Bowl for cooks if you can make it to Chopped.
Learn about that challenging secret ingredient and if our local chef Beat Bobby Flay on Thursday, Oct. 13 at 10 p.m. on The Food Network.