Back in March, 2018, well known local chef and Longwood Highlands resident Mark Peel (Campanile, Prawn, etc.) was invited to appear on the TV show “Beat Bobby Flay,” in which professional chefs compete first against each other and then against the show’s celebrity host to create a winning dish for the show’s judges. When Peel went to tape the episode, however, it turned out that one of the producers had once worked with Peel’s wife, Daphne Brogdon, who is also well known as an actress, comedian, blogger, and the one-time star of her own cooking show, “Daphne Dishes”…and they invited her to tape an episode as well.
As it happened, Peel, whose “Beat Bobby Flay” episode finally aired in July of this year, didn’t make it past the first round of the show…so Brogdon, who shot her episode two months later, told the Buzz that her goal was to beat Peel’s performance and at least make it to round two.
Toward that end, she said, she prepared diligently, working with chef buddy Nancy Silverton to practice options for her first-round dish, as well as a list of possible dishes that might be chosen for a finalist round, if she made it that far.
And, as viewers will see…
…the prep paid off. Brogdon and her initial competitor, Gregory Wiener, from Napa Valley, were tasked with making something using the surprise ingredient Taleggio cheese…and her “pizza fritatta” beat Wiener’s “tempura cheese” in round one. (Although she was at first unsure her dish would come out on top, Brogdon said she knew as soon as one of the judges mentioned that her competitor had used star anise in his creation that he had “gilded the lily,” and the round was hers.)
The show’s second round was a bit trickier, however. Not only does the winning contestant from round one go up against Flay himself, but contestants are not told in advance which dish from the pre-supplied list of possibilities they’ll be cooking. Brogdon said many of the dishes on the round two possibility list are chicken-based…and she was hoping for an opportunity to create a healthy version of Chinese orange chicken. But the dish actually chosen during the taping was a Cubano sandwich (a distinctive variation on the classic grilled ham and cheese), with which Brogdon is much less familiar.
Brogdon said the show’s producers, when prepping the contestants, strongly encouraged them to think about “what makes it stand out” when creating their dishes, and also to push for something new, original, and very “21st century.” So she decided to embellish her Cubano with a tomato/bacon relish she favors.
During the taping, Brogdon said she felt like she was particpating in a “sporting event,” with adrenaline pumping the whole time. During round two, she was given a large cut of pork from which to create her Cubano and admits she struggled a bit with it. “I didn’t butcher the pork well,” she said. “I had never started with a piece that big.” Also, when practicing the dish from the list of possibilities in the days before the taping, she said had never included the meat-cutting process in her timing; she had always clocked herself with pre-cut meat, which also threw her off in front of the cameras.
In the end, however, Brogdon succeeded in creating a unique version of the classic sandwich, which included her tasty relish…while Flay’s Cubano was, well, pretty classic and unembellished. So which version did the judges prefer? Now that one we won’t spoil. (While no longer airing directly on Food Network, the episode – called “Funny or Fried?” – is still available through Amazon Prime and Vudu.)
Meanwhile, Brogdon loved doing the show. Contestants don’t get paid, she said, and don’t even get hair and makeup prep from the show’s staff (Brogdon paid for makeup out of her own pocket), but while the production is pretty “bare bones,” the staff are “total pros,” and the audience at the taping was extremely enthusiastic and encouraging. She says she had a great time, and the whole process – especially honing recipes by a certain date – very much fit her own love of working to deadlines. “I wish I could do it every week!”
Great article featuring local talent. Congratulations, Daphne! Looking forward to the next venture.