Achieving victory has proved elusive for the Houston chefs who have appeared on the popular Food Network show Chopped. Rising star chefs like Martin Weaver (Brennan's of Houston) and Brandon Soverall (Triniti) each lost in the final round, but the city's chefs are finally building some momentum.
Bernie's Burger Bus chef/owner Justin Turner became the second Houston chef to triumph in as many weeks — Shannen Tune (Craft Burger Truck) won last week — when he won Thursday night's episode. Titled "The Bold and The Baconful," Turner defeated three other chefs from Houston to claim the $10,000 prize. In the order in which they were "chopped," they other contestants were Sean Carroll (Melange Creperie), Angela Rowley (Blackbird Foods), and Martin Horsey (Stab It food truck).
Turner tells CultureMap that he's a longtime fan of the show who developed a strategy for how to approach the competition. "Be safe in the first round but execute all the ingredients. Second round, you’ve got to step out of your comfort zone. Third round, you’ve got to bring it home with good flavor and technique. I knew if I did that I would win."
Playing it safe in the first round with a goat cheese bruschetta nearly cost Turner his shot at the money, but Carroll's flavors on his fried, bacon-wrapped grilled cheese with baba ghanoush didn't come together. From there, Turner hit his stride, drawing upon one of his favorite dishes to create the best entree of the episode, pho with pork shoulder meatballs. For dessert, the chef made rice pudding with sauteed apples that narrowly edged out Horsey's fair-inspired caramel apple with spicy puffed rice.
"Honestly, I just had a good feeling all day that if I cooked the ingredients and treated all four ingredients with respect, and showcased them, and listened to what the judges had to say, I was going to win," Turner says.
With two successful restaurants in Bellaire and Katy already under his belt, Turner doesn't need the money to expand his business. Instead, he has his eyes on a more elusive luxury: quality time with his 4-year-old son Cooper.
"I hate to say 'I’m going to Disney World.' I want to split it between Cooper and me having personal trip before The Heights opens."
As for when that might be, Turner notes demolition has finally begun on the site on Yale Street. If all goes according to plan with the construction, he'll be serving burgers in his third restaurant by November.