Sure, the contrived environment and sleep deprivation that food competition contestants go through are hardly the best conditions for showing off your cooking chops. But with everything Teddy Folkman’s got going on here in Washington, his stint on the new season of The Next Food Network Star must have felt like just another month in the life of the Flay-slaying mussel man.
In addition to his duties at Granville Moore’s, Folkman has partnered with entrepreneur Joe Englert to take on consulting chef roles at both the H Street Country Club (opening tonight) and the Capitol Lounge. He’s also working with Englert on a number of new restaurant concepts to debut over the next year or two on H Street, NE, and Pennsylvania Avenue, SE. As if that weren’t enough to exhaust him, he is also a frequent participant in charitable events like last week’s Brew at the Zoo in Baltimore and the upcoming Brainfood grill-off.
So what was it like to go through the Food Network wringer? After reading some of the notices responding to his bio video and Joe Yonan’s advance look at the first episode over at All We Can Eat, it sounds like Teddy may be rubbing some folks the wrong way…we wonder if the pressure may have had something to do with that (and we hope it’s a temporary condition). Eager to get his take on the experience, we were lucky enough to score one of the first interviews with Teddy as the debut of the show (Sunday, June 7th at 9 PM) approaches.
We’ve been quite open about our friendship with Teddy and our desire to see him succeed, but it bears repeating. We’re not even going to pretend to be impartial throughout this season. Even so, we scheduled this interview through the Food Network’s PR people, just like every other food writer out there:
Capital Spice: Thanks for taking the time to talk with us today, Teddy!
Teddy Folkman: No problem, thanks for reaching out.
CS: So…what does it feel like to be DC’s Most Crushable Chef?
TF: I heard you guys did this while I was away…but I’ve just been telling myself that you meant ‘crushable’ as in “the chef you’d most like to tackle,” so I’m honored to know so many people want to crush me!
CS: That works. So who’s your most crushable chef?
TF: No doubt – Ann Cashion. She’s been a mentor and an inspiration throughout my career.
More Q&A with Teddy – including some teasers about what to look for on-screen and in-town when the episodes air – after the jump.
CS: What was the filming schedule like?
TF: It was pretty intense. They shot over six weeks, but there were early mornings and late nights throughout the process.
CS: And how did you cover for being away so long?
TF: I was up in New York helping one of my friends launch a restaurant…and I was “doing food research” while I was up there.
CS: The network is making a big deal about your experience on “Throwdown!” What would you say you were least prepared for?
TF: The mental pressures definitely caught me off guard. You’re trying to keep up with everyone else’s energy and show your own perspective, but it’s a lot of stress. I mean, the goal is to be the Next Food Network Star, so you have to be ready for the work. It amazes me that [Season Two Winner] Guy Fieri is on the road 220 days out of the year!
CS: In a recent post, [Food Network Senior Vice President] Bob Tuschman shared his early impressions of each of the finalists and he mentioned that you seemed to lack a distinctive point of view. What is your culinary point of view?
TF: I’d say it’s the kind of thing people have come to expect from us at Granville Moore’s. You can call it gourmet bar food, or twists on traditional pub fare.
CS: Assuming you do win, what kinds of shows would you pitch to the Food Network?
TF: I actually have a couple of ideas that I think would be great. The first would be an audience participation-style show, sort of a “Cook Along with Teddy.” Viewers could go to the Food Network’s website before the week’s episode airs to print out a shopping list for the ingredients we’d be working with. We’d give prep steps in advance and then we could actually work through the dish in real time so that it would be ready to eat at the end of the episode.
I also love the idea of a show that takes a satirical look at the food industry and the restaurant culture…something like the Daily Show or Chelsea Lately.
CS: With all of the competitive juices flowing, did you end up making any enemies?
TF: Not at all – the opposite, in fact. We were all living together in such close quarters that we ended up becoming friendly. I’ve even invited several of the other chefs to join me in DC during the competition, and Eddie “the Kosher Pig” Gilbert will be joining me in the kitchen at Granville Moore’s and Cap Lounge for a while in a few months.
CS: Any inspirations you took from your competitors that you’ll bring back with you?
TF: Definitely. I’ve been looking at a range of new cuisines as a result of getting to know these chefs, and I’m even toying with the idea of debuting a mussels special each Monday that will be themed after whichever chef is eliminated the night before…even if it’s me!
CS: Any techniques or recipes you used that will show up on menus here in DC?
TF: You’re just going to have to wait and see.
CS: How did you feel about the overall experience?
TF: It was tough, but I really enjoyed it. Everyone brought something intimidating to the table, so it was a great challenge. Thankfully, I felt like I was able to be myself throughout the process.
CS: Sure, being on TV is old news for you…
TF: It’s funny, but the experience really didn’t transfer. I don’t remember even thinking about the cameras during the Throwdown, but you’re very aware of the cameras in this situation.
CS: Sounds like a great time all around – we’ll definitely be rooting for you! Any plans for watch parties?
TF: We’re going to be doing them at Capitol Lounge (229 Pennsylvania Avenue, SE) – hopefully folks will come out and watch with us. And I’ll be rolling out some new menu items at the Lounge, too…
CS: Thanks for your time, Teddy. Good luck!
TF: Thanks, guys.