Brian Howard says he got chopped on Chopped. The executive chef at Comme Ça at the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas was one of the first Vegas chefs featured on the Food Network’s new season.
In the first round of the show he filmed five months ago in New York, Howard cooked up a dish that featured gummy fried eggs, corned beef hash, black olives and baby corn.
“The first round is just getting adjusted national TV,” Howard says. “It was exciting and nerve-racking. That first 10 minutes is just getting acclimated.”
Howard decided to make a take on street food with grilled corn beef and used the olives to play on Mediterranean tones with a little garlic and olive oil to serve as a base for the corn tacos. Howard uses gelatins in the kitchen at Comme Ça, so making the gummy fried eggs was a cinch. The eggs puffed up like a marshmallow fluff with some jalapeño, cilantro and sour cream thrown in to make a sauce. He used the baby corn, which was just coming into season, as a thickener.
“I fared well in the first round,” Howard says. “When the timer went off, I looked down at the plate. Tacos are not my style.”
Howard practiced in the restaurant, conducting time trials against other chefs two or three times for an hour to get the rhythm of coming up with solutions using random ingredients so quickly.
Round two brought out a striped bass, Lemonhead candies, cream of mushroom soup and sunchokes, and Howard felt this was the time to show his creativity.
“I work with a lot of fish. I was excited about this round. The fish and citrus are just a great combination all around,” Howard says.
He wanted to show the versatility of the sunchokes, making four variations using the ingredient. He added sunchokes to the cream of mushroom soup and added fresh mushrooms to make a puree. He made sunchoke chips. He marinated the sunchokes with some lemongrass and peanut oil. He used raw sunchokes in a salad.
Then he used the Lemonhead candies in a sauce, almost a caramel, with dashi and lime.
But that seabass turned into his downfall. “I was used to my restaurant timing. I felt really confident. For me I wanted to showcase a lot of technique. At the 10-minute mark, I broke down fish.”
He looked around to see that the other chefs were making a crispy-skinned version of the fish, so he went for a steamed version. And the hot lights from the studio made the fish difficult to work with.
“My fish a little undercooked I didn’t believe it until I saw the show,” Howard says. “Going to the judges table, I thought I was still in it. One of the judges said fish might be undercooked.”
The judges even downgraded him for NOT making crispy-skinned fish. One even said that in his restaurant they take the skin off their steamed fish. “My Chinese in-laws don’t,” Howard says.
While Howard didn’t make it to the end, he did say he challenged himself with the experience. “David [Myers, the LA chef behind Comme Ça] really throws a lot of ingredients at me. He calls me at one in the morning when I’m just getting home from work and he’ll throw out five or six ingredients and ask me to come up with dishes.
“I guess you always take something from everything,” Howard reflects. “I’m definitely a lot harder on my cooks to make sure the fish is cooked.”
You can still see Howard’s episode of Chopped on the Food Network at 9 p.m. Thursday, June 14, midnight Friday, June 15, and noon on Saturday, June 16.
· All Coverage of Brian Howard [~ELV~]
· All Coverage of Comme Ça [~ELV~]
· All Coverage of Chopped [~ELV~]