Behind the Scenes with Chef Palak: How I Beat Bobby Flay
Going head to head with Bobby Flay on nationwide television was quite the epicurean undertaking. Not many chefs can say they’ve taken him on and were victorious. I was lucky enough to be invited to cook against the grill master himself in a New York-themed special, and I won. How did I do it? Let’s flash back to the day of the face-off.
First, I’d like to talk a little about Bobby Flay. He was as charismatic and engaging in person as he is on screen. It was inspiring to see an Iron Chef take the time to learn about my culinary point of view and even crack a few jokes along the way, which definitely helped calm my nerves in the heat of the competition.
To even be able to challenge Bobby Flay, I first had to cook against another chef, Daniel Holzman of New York City’s beloved Meatball Shop. Bobby Flay presented us both with a secret ingredient for us to incorporate into our own unique dish, which was then evaluated by chefs Alex Guarnaschelli and Michael Symon in a tasting round. The winner then moved on to face off with Bobby—guess who?
It was inspiring to see an Iron Chef take the time to learn about my culinary point of view and even crack a few jokes along the way, which definitely helped calm my nerves in the heat of the competition.
For my battle against Bobby, I challenged him to make his version of a curry, saying, “Bobby, stick to tacos. Let me handle curry.” My recipe for curry is an old family one, containing spices my mom uses. The secret to the rich, vibrant flavor is to toast the spices, including cinnamon, cumin, cardamom and cloves before grinding them. This emboldens the essence of each spice and deepens the flavor of the curry, as the toasting releases aromas and essential oils that just can’t be achieved with bottled spices. I remember being very nervous throughout the show, but being able to cook a dish that is so dear to my heart comforted me. When my curry reigned supreme, Bobby couldn’t have been more sportsmanlike. I was so grateful for the opportunity to cook alongside an industry legend.
I encourage you to try my chicken curry recipe for yourself—I hope you find it as warm and fuzzy as I do.
Palak’s Beat Bobby Flay Chicken Curry | Fluffy Cauliflower Cumin Rice
- 1 lemon, juiced
- 2 pounds boneless chicken breasts
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 1/2 cup cauliflower florets
- 1 teaspoon roasted cumin powder
- 3 tablespoons oil
- 1 large onions, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon grated ginger
- 2/3 cup Roma tomatoes puree
- Handful of cashews
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 tablespoon garam masala
- 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
- 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1/4 cup of fresh cilantro stems
- Add lemon juice to chicken and marinate
- Bring 2 cups water to boil, add salt, cauliflower, cook 7-10 minutes till tender
- Remove from water and fluff with fork, season with salt and cumin powder
- Add oil to a skillet, add onions, garlic, and ginger, cook till fragrant 5-7 minutes
- Add tomato puree and cook 15 minutes
- Add cashews and water and puree with immersion blender
- Mix in garam masala powder, turmeric and cayenne pepper, cook 1 minute
- Stir chicken and cook through
- Season with salt
- Garnish with cilantro
Note: This recipe was adapted from the original to create an easy-to-make recipe for busy home cooks. The original had more than a dozen spices! Enjoy.
Born in India and raised in Atlanta, Chef Palak Patel grew up surrounded by traditional Indian cuisine. As her love of all things culinary expanded, she experimented with food, marrying the flavors of her native country with those of her adopted one. Her zest for travel further broadened her flavor palate as she globe-trotted, feasting on everything from local street food to la haute gastronomie. Palak shares these experiences as a TV personality, writer and one of the food industry’s newest and sassiest rising stars, gaining critical acclaim from victories in shows like Chopped and Beat Bobby Flay on Food Network. Palak also battled it out against 24 other seasoned chefs in the Sears Chef’s Challenge, winning $20,000 for the Los Angeles Food Bank. Palak has been a guest on multiple Food Network shows, Marie Claire’s The Fix and Bravo’s Blood, Sweat and Heels. She has been featured in Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times and India Abroad, and is a regular food and travel contributor to Table Magazine. Palak also has partnered with high-profile brands such as BMW and Barclays to curate menus for large events, HelloFresh as a guest chef and Mashable about creating a personal brand. Learn more, and contact us to book Chef Palak Patel.