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Cunningham's chef 'filled with gratitude' for 'Chopped' win

Cunningham's chef 'filled with gratitude' for 'Chopped' win
Jay Rohlfing and his wife Lisa. Rohlfing won an episode of the Food Network's 'Chopped.' (Amanda Triplett / HANDOUT)

Jay Rohlfing, put simply, is having a great Wednesday morning. On Tuesday night, he celebrated with an estimated 80-100 people at Cunningham’s, the Towson restaurant where he serves as executive chef, as they watched him win the latest episode of Food Network’s “Chopped.”

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He said he was “filled with gratitude” for the celebration in a phone interview with The Baltimore Sun on Wednesday morning.

“There are few moments in your life that you’re surrounded by loved ones, and you can just feel the love in the room,” he said. “My wedding with my wife is something else that stands out, like a day like that, where people are there because they genuinely care about you and want to see the best for you. That’s what I got to experience last night.”

Rohlfing’s wife Lisa and several other family members, as well as many of the restaurant’s fans, joined the Baltimore County native to watch the episode, which taped in April of 2018. The Cunningham’s Facebook page posted a video showing the joyous crowd at the moment Rohlfing won.

“Every single face was familiar,” he said about the watch party attendees. “When you’re a restaurant in the suburbs, in the county like Towson, you live and die by your neighborhood and the people that come and see you on a weekly basis.”

“I’m just honored to be able to represent where I grew up, my neighborhood, Baltimore, Towson, and my family too,” he added.

The concept behind Cunningham’s revolves around using fresh and locally sourced ingredients, many of which come from its own farm, in its kitchen and bakery. Rohlfing said that these details made for a compelling story, which he believed was why the Food Network contacted him about appearing on “Chopped” in the first place.

“Cunningham’s itself is a great story, the idea of what it represents — not just another restaurant, the idea of trying to source its own food from its own farm, the idea of employing so many more people than just cooks and servers,” he said. “It’s a neighborhood, community place, and that’s what we’re trying to grow it into.”

The culinary competition show requires contestants to prepare three courses, which incorporate unusual or rarely-combined specific ingredients, for a panel of judges. Rohlfing used a cake made out of bologna in his appetizer course, as well as kidneys in his entree. He laughed when asked if he’d include bologna in the Cunningham’s menu.

“We have a huge charcuterie program in the restaurant, maybe I’ll start dabbling in baking some bologna cake,” he said.

Rohlfing plans to use his prize of $10,000 to acquire another farm for his family. “My wife and I have a small home that I bought when I was a young man in Parkville,” he said. “Now with a daughter who is 16 months old — seven weeks when we filmed the episode — and now I have a boy due in October, we’ve kind of outgrown our space [where] we raise our chickens, ducks, rabbits and [grow] vegetables here...to go buy a piece of property, where we can expand on it, is the goal.”

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