Most days, Shane Miller can be found at his day job as the area executive chef for Sodexo's Leisure Division crafting new menu items for his two clients, Space Center Houston and the Houston Zoo. Back in August, Miller took a break from testing wood-fired pizzas and Korean beef street tacos to try his luck as a contestant on Guy Fieri's new show Guy's Grocery Games.
For those not familiar with the latest television offering from the mayor of Flavor Town, Guy's Grocery Games mixes game show classic Supermarket Sweep with Food Network's chef competition show Chopped. Contestants have a limited amount of time to create dishes that utilize ingredients found in the market that meet specific criteria. A three judge panel eliminates one contestant in each of the show's three rounds.
The winner then runs through the market trying to collect 10 items to win $20,000. For example, in Miller's episode, the first challenge required him to make an Italian dish using only canned items, plus a fresh herb and an ingredient from "aisle 9."
Miller tells CultureMap that when he first heard about the opportunity to participate in a new game show, he didn't know the show's name or format. "No one said anything about Guy's Grocery Games," he recalls. "They were in the early stages of casting. It literally was a generic feeler." Miller fired off a headshot and resume, then participated in interviews over Skype.
The first challenge required him to make an Italian dish using only canned items, plus a fresh herb and an ingredient from "aisle 9."
When he got to the "neighborhood grocery store" where the show is filmed, Miller says he had four or five hours to "size up" his competition while the crew filmed other episodes and recorded interviews. "My one and only goal was to get through the first round," he says.
Miller says he knew pretty quickly that he would make Minestrone soup for the canned good challenge. "They were asking, 'How do you anticipate winning this competition?' I was going to use proper technique (in terms of) treating ingredients properly."
For the second challenge, Fieri told the contestants to make the ultimate hot dog. Miller served a Texas-style chili cheese char dog with twice-fried home fries. "I'm literally in cultural destination retail. I better know a damn hot dog," Miller says.
At this point, Miller concedes he was probably a little behind pastry chef Kristina White, but the third challenge to create a rice dish that utilized specific ingredients from a shopping list turned the tide. The Louisiana native, whose resume includes a stint with New Orleans celebrity chef John Besh, immediately knew he'd be making jambalaya.
"I see these ingredients. I think they even show my moment of clarity," Miller says. "I've got this shit-eating grin because I know where I'm going."
Having dispatched White, Miller had his chance to run through the market to find the 10 items he needed to earn the full prize of $20,000. He'd studied the layout. He was ready. One thing held him back.
"Stupid strawberry jam. Do you know how many red jams there are on the shelf?!? It took me 27 seconds," he says.
Still, Miller managed to grab nine items and win $18,000. "Right now it's sitting in a bank account," he says. "My wife just retired from the military, and she's working on purchasing an RV so we can travel around the country and visit relatives wherever they may be."
Guy's Grocery Games airs on The Food Network Sundays at 7 p.m.