Tyler Anderson can't divulge the outcome of his recent appearance on the Food Network's "Beat Bobby Flay." But he will say he's "very happy" with the way he cooked.
Flay's most recent competition show is sort of a cross between the network's "Throwdown with Bobby Flay" and "Iron Chef," where two chefs face off for the chance to go up against the celebrity chef, restaurateur and TV personality. Anderson, the chef-owner of Millwright's in Simsbury, will take on Matthew Britt, executive chef of Ceiba in Washington, D.C., in the first round of Thursday's competition episode.
The two chefs are given just 20 minutes to come up with a dish, using a mystery main ingredient chosen by Flay. Two celebrity judges taste their plates and choose a winner to compete against Flay in round 2.
The tables are turned at that point — the winning chef gets to pick the signature dish, and Flay has to put his own spin on the recipe. "It has to be its own sort of comforting dish…and you do your style. You have 45 minutes," Anderson said.
In a recent episode, Flay competed against Los Angeles chef Neal Fraser, who chose fried chicken sandwiches as the battle focus. Though the two both chose Asian-inspired ingredients (sriracha, gochujang, kimchi) to spice up the chicken, Fraser won the competition, partly due to his innovative method of binding breast and thigh pieces with a chicken mousseline.
This isn't Anderson's first television experience — he's known for his "Chopped" win in 2009, back when he was the executive chef at Essex's Copper Beech Inn. In the five years since, he's achieved even more — his critically-acclaimed farm-to-table restaurant just celebrated its second anniversary, and in February, he was nominated as a semifinalist for a James Beard Foundation award in the Best Chef: Northeast category.
Anderson says "Chopped" was "the tightest ship I've ever worked on, production wise" and welcomed the opportunity to appear on the new show. "There are very few chefs who are that good at creating that much food in a short amount of time," he said of Flay. "I wanted the challenge."
He said the experience was a lot of fun, and he prepared by watching "every episode at least once." "There aren't a lot of ways to prepare for this show; there are [more] ways to prepare for 'Chopped,'" he said. Each competitor has a whole pantry at their disposal, but it's up to them to come up with ideas on the fly.
The TV appearance airs during what's already a busy week for Anderson and Millwright's. On Tuesday, the restaurant plays host to a fundraiser dinner for No Kid Hungry-Share Our Strength, bringing together 8 of Greater Hartford's best chefs for a special multi-course meal. On Friday, Anderson and crew pay homage to Julia Child, with another dinner featuring the vaunted chef's most popular recipes. Thursday, he's welcomed guests for an "industry and friends" night in the restaurant's tavern — where the show will air on one small TV in the bar area.
"It was great to be able to represent the state of Connecticut by going to cook in New York, and I hope I represented the state — and the great chefs who work here — well," Anderson said.
"BEAT BOBBY FLAY'' airs Thursday, Aug. 14 at 10 p.m. on the Food Network. Information: foodnetwork.com/shows/beat-bobby-flay.html.