The CultureMap Interview
Bryan Caswell dishes on Iron Chef beach life, Austin expansion & new Tex-MexTower build out
Houston's Iron Chef ... yes, we like the sound of that.
After months of speculation and anticipation, Bryan Caswell makes his small screen debut this Sunday on The Food Network at 8 p.m. as one of 10 talented chefs vying to be The Next Iron Chef. CultureMap asks Caswell about preparing for reality TV, what he's afraid of on the show (looking like "a big giant") and what's on his agenda back in Texas.
Will he be the champ? His lips are sealed. But fans can try and find out this Sunday at the premiere viewing party at Stella Sola.
CultureMap: How did you decide to do the show? Did you do anything to prepare?
Bryan Caswell: I kinda had been thinking about doing something like that, and The Next Iron Chef was more about the food; the integrity of the show was right. When I first found out, I wanted to start practicing, but it's impossible to know what to practice other than maybe to brush up on things you don't do often. Dessert, every chef needs a dessert, there're just so many ways they could go.
CM: Did anything about filming surprise you?
BC: It's just such a unique situation. Rarely do you get an opportunity to perform in that way. There's a time crunch every day in restaurants, but to be by yourself, having to do everything within an hour, with no support staff ... You can try to practice but it's difficult to recreate — the chairman yelling "Go!", Alton (Brown) asking questions while you work, it takes 15-20 just to calm down it's so intense.
Nothing could have prepared me for 25 cameras in my face all day long. In the interviews at first you're worried what you say, but after a while you drop it and be yourself. As far as cooking, I don't remember seeing the camera during the challenges. I'm just focused.
You know that movie with Kevin Costner where he's a pitcher and when he's on the mound he gets in the zone and the whole stadium just goes away? It's kinda like that, everything goes away, I'm focusing on doing what I do. I knocked over few cameramen, but it didn't bother me.
CM: What was the most difficult challenge? There's a preview of you guys cooking on a beach ...
BC: It's hard to say what was the most difficult. I've been cooking at camps on the beach, all types, before I was even a chef. The biggest challenge was the wind, people would run by and kick up sand.
CM: Walking in, who did you think was your biggest competition?
BC: I remember first sitting down and the meet and greet and seeing Ming Tsai. I asked him, "What's your involvement with the show?" and he told me he was a contestant. I was like, "WTF?"
He's got hours of TV time, he's an old school kind of master. All the other guys were in my demographic, young chefs with their own shingle.
CM: How is your Tex-Mex place (in Houston) coming along? We hear you might be opening a restaurant in Austin?
BC: It's fantastic, hopefully we'll be out of the build out and open at the end of January. No name yet.
Austin, that would be great but there's nothing to announce yet. We'd like to expand Little Bigs, and Austin near UT would be perfect for that, we've definitely looked at some properties, but nothing so far. I think Austin would be great though.