A Louisiana chef and restaurateur impressed judges during Tuesday night's episode of "Chopped."
Chef Gavin Jobe was named the winner on the Oct. 10 episode of the popular competitive cooking show on Food Network. Jobe is the co-owner and chef of The Pelican House, a bar and recently revamped Baton Rouge restaurant, and Meribo, a modern Italian restaurant in Covington.
Last night's episode is part of a larger, four-part series, dubbed "The Alton Brown Challenge." Each episode deals with a specific cooking process. Last night's competition revolved around smoke.
Over the next three weeks, the show will have winning chefs battling with weird ingredients while dealing with processes such as fermentation, dehydration and molecular gastronomy. Oh, and each dish has to be prepared and plated in 30 minutes.
For Jobe, the entire process — from being cast to cooking for Brown to competing in the finale of the tournament — was a "very cool experience."
"I found out the show was casting in the area, and friends were tagging me in Facebook posts, saying that I should do it," Jobe said. "I didn't have a desire to be on TV, but I figured it would be a good opportunity and maybe win some money."
However, Tuesday night's victory wasn't an easy or short journey.
Before filming the episode in the spring, Jobe went through numerous phone and Skype interviews, then shot video introductions at his Covington restaurant.
"There was never a guarantee that I would be on the show," he said of the initial shoots.
Once he did get booked to compete — he received the confirmation call to be on the show on his birthday — Jobe said he wasn't as intimidated or nervous as one might expect.
"I'm mostly a self-taught chef," he said. "I grew up on Alton Brown, and I learned a ton watching (Brown's show) 'Good Eats.' I picked up so much stuff from that. I knew what he expects and likes. It made it a relief to know he would be one of the judges."
Jobe had also seen episodes of "Chopped," and while watching, he would always imagine what he would do in certain situations.
During the first round of the episode, Jobe had to infuse ingredients such as smoked salmon macarons, Chilean sea bass, black garlic and baby radishes for the first dish — an Asian noodle bowl.
In the second round, Jobe prepared a Sauce Gribiche using "Alton's magnificent smoked meatballs," red Shishito peppers, cardoons (a thistle-like veggie similar to celery and artichoke) and hard smoked eggs.
Brown was critical of the dish, but the other two judges were complimentary.
"Alton thought I shouldn't have done pasta," Jobe said. "It's funny, on TV, they show that interaction and it lasts 20-30 seconds. In reality, you spend 15-20 minutes going back and forth. I tried everything that went on the plate. I was happy with how all the dishes turned out."
For the final round, Jobe had to make a dessert against a pastry chef.
"I was hoping all the pastry chefs would go home before the final round," he said. "At the same time, a lot of competitors who have that experience tend to overstretch themselves. When I saw that she was making a pastry dough from scratch, I thought, 'Wow, that's not the best idea.' "
The ingredients for the final round were another basket full of challenges, too: Suanmei tang (a smoked and fermented plum drink from China), Anjou pears, Mozzarella cheese and pork skin. Jobe made a plum-like ice cream and moist microwave cake.
"The mozzarella was the biggest curveball," Jobe said of the final round. "There's not a whole lot you can do with that. Before the show, I practiced ice creams a lot; so, I decided to put the plum drink in an ice cream. When my competitor pulled her dish out of the oven, I could tell her pastry wasn't cooked all the way through."
In the end, Jobe won, and he'll get a chance to prove his worth in the finale of "The Alton Brown Challenge" tournament on "Chopped.
The rest of the challenges on will air over the next three Tuesday. The finale, which features Jobe going against the other winners, will air Nov. 7. Jobe will host a viewing party at Meribo and live stream at The Pelican House.
Jobe can't say what happens even though the finale has already been filmed, but overall, the experience was rewarding.
"I got to cook for people who I look up to and chefs I'm familiar with," Jobe said. "I hope that people see this and realize what we're doing and trying to accomplish at both of the restaurants."