Another Houston chef stood in the culinary spotlight Wednesday night as former Haven chef Randy Evans competed on the Food Network show Kitchen Inferno. Hosted by celebrity chef Curtis Stone, the show pits an experienced chef against four different levels of culinary competition in a format that's part Iron Chef and part Chopped. The prizes range from $5,000 to $25,000 per round, but a contestant who loses a round doesn't win anything.
In round one, Evans faced off against a "rising star" — home cook and reality TV veteran Stephanie Goldfarb. In round two, he narrowly edged Top Chef: Texas veteran Nyesha Arrington, described by the chow as a "restaurant master." Evans defeated celebrity chef Elizabeth Falkner in round three, but he lost the final round to "world-class chef" Stone in a battle of handmade pasta.
"It was a learning experience. That's for sure," Evans tells CultureMap about his time on the show.
"It was crazy. I was sweating. I was hot. They want you to talk."
Roost/Lilo & Ella chef/owner Kevin Naderi, who knew the producers from his appearance on Guy's Grocery Games, referred them to Evans when they asked Naderi for "chefs who are better than you. He said, 'You need to talk to Randy. He was my chef,' " Evans says.
After an extensive vetting process, Evans felt sure he'd chosen the right show for his television debut. "I knew they were going to bring in good chefs," he says. Contestants on other episodes include Viet Pham, formerly of Salt Lake City's celebrated Forage restaurant, and Tory McPhail, executive chef of Commander's Palace and a James Beard Award winner.
Two things that Evans says surprised him were how quickly the time went by and how much work was involved in each round. "Fifteen minutes goes by super fast . . . . It's just you and six burners and a cutting board," he says. "It was crazy. I was sweating. I was hot. They want you to talk."
As the taping went on, Evans became more comfortable talking through his thoughts in front of the camera. "During the first round, I wasn't talking enough. The producer kept asking me questions, which was even harder," he recalls. "Once I got my sea legs under me I figured I need to talk and talk and talk so they'll leave me alone and I can just cook."
Even though he lost, Evans says he'd do it again. "If they call me. If it’s the right one. The producers really liked me. They felt like I was really good at TV, he says. "It’s certainly good for this new consulting company I have. People who haven’t seen me cook or eaten in my restaurant can see a little B-roll."
Southern Son Consulting, Evans's new project, is already making headway with clients that include James Coney Island (now JCI Grill), Oceans, a seafood restaurant set to open in Galveston in early 2015 and a restaurant at the H-E-B at San Felipe and Fountain View.
"I’m interviewing potential clients as much as they’re interviewing me. I’ve got four proposals and three meetings (coming up)," Evans says. "I’m able to do all the things I love with people I work with. Just have a bigger, more open-minded idea of cooking."
The success of the consulting work has put Evans' plans for a new restaurant on hold, but it has come with one unexpected benefit.
"I’m actually cooking more than I have since I was a cook . . . . I’m having more fun than I did in a restaurant creating food."