LAST NIGHT 8TH WONDER BREWERY not only served its lineup of craft beers to more than 300 young Houstonians, the hotspot also served up a champion. That’s right, Roost chef-owner Kevin Naderi can now officially decree to all of America that he did beat Bobby Flay.
The viewing party, which began two hours ahead of Naderi’s episode of Food Network’s Beat Bobby Flay, featured live music from local band Muddy Belle, tasty munchies from the Eatsie Boys food truck and beer from 8th Wonder itself. But the real treat was getting to watch Naderi and all his family and friends celebrate his achievements on the “Stop, Drop and Roll” episode.
Naderi came out swinging a baguette, intimidating his competitors while getting the crowd riled up as John Cena does when he’s getting ready to battle. And boy, was this a battle. Going head-to-head with Polish-Italian Chef Mark Vecchitto, the two had to see in the first round who could best incorporate and highlight cannellini beans. While Vecchitto made a scrumptious-looking chili Colorado with bacon over an arugula salad, it was no match for Naderi’s take on shrimp and grits (hint: the beans were the grits), with a lemon Worcestershire sauce.
The winning dish? A lamb-and-pistachio-stuffed cabbage roll featuring a roasted tomato and charred feta cheese in a vinaigrette, topped with olives and a house salad. Opting out of the bamboo steamer in the kitchen, Naderi decided to cook his cabbage rolls sous-vide. After the cabbage came out of the immersion circulator, Naderi placed them on a sheet pan in a slightly-open oven to prevent them from cracking before they were stuffed and rolled.
Flay, on the other hand, took the more traditional route with a Polish-style ground beef and rice cabbage roll (gołąbki), topped with marinara sauce.
With the help of special guests Geoffrey Zakarian and Donny Deutsch, judges Maneet Chauhan, Franklin Becker and Dorothy Cann Hamilton named Naderi the winner.
After enduring 12 hours of filming, Naderi admitted in a video interview that when he walked off the set after beating Flay, the production crew did the take around 20 times. “I’m not really the most ecstatic, loud guy like that,” said Naderi.
Naderi beamed with pride as he intently watched the competition play out on the multiple flat screens in the brewery. The final take they decided to go with was Naderi breaking a similar baguette from the first shot in half triumphantly on his knee, as he told America he had just beaten Bobby Flay.
“I took on one of the best in the country and came out on top,” he said. “I think it’s one of those things where I’ve been cooking for so long it’s good to do something new and refreshing to show that I still have a little bit of a drive and passion when it comes to competition.”
Originally published in Houstoniamag.com on July 29, 2016.