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Baltimore chef beats Bobby Flay in Food Network cook-off

Chefs Bobby Flay and Kiran Patnam. Patnam recently bested Flay in an episode of "Beat Bobby Flay."
Chefs Bobby Flay and Kiran Patnam. Patnam recently bested Flay in an episode of "Beat Bobby Flay." (Handout)

Chef Kiran Patnam became one of the few chefs to actually beat Bobby Flay in his Food Network appearance Thursday night.

Patnam, executive sous chef for the Baltimore Marriott Waterfront hotel in Harbor East, competed on a recent episode of “Beat Bobby Flay,” during which he won both rounds of the televised cooking competition. He bested Flay with his signature dish of butter chicken, now on the menu at Apropoe’s, the hotel’s restaurant.

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Patnam said he spent months preparing for the competition. The show was filmed in May 2017, and Patnam was not allowed to reveal the results for months.

“That was the hardest part in the entire show,” he said.

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In the first round, Patnam went head-to-head with chef Jonathan Wu. They had 20 minutes to create a dish with a secret ingredient — cockles, small bivalves similar to mini clams. Patnam’s version, braised with white wine and bell peppers, won over judges Amanda Freitag and Geoffrey Zakarian, who selected Patnam to face off against Flay.

The executive sous chef of the Baltimore Marriott Waterfront hotel will have a chance to go head-to-head with Bobby Flay.

Patnam’s winning butter chicken, an Indian dish, utilizes a marinade with a blend of spices such as cinnamon, cardamom, garam masala, cumin and coriander, balanced with chili and yogurt. The chicken is marinated, pan-fried and bathed in a sauce of butter, cream, tomatoes, onions and the same spice blend used in the marinade.

“That was my family’s favorite dish,” said Patnam, who moved to the U.S. from India in 2008.

Patnam said he was well-prepared by the time he stepped into the kitchen on the set of “Beat Bobby Flay.” He applied to the Food Network show three times before he was called in for an interview. After he was selected, he said he spent about two months preparing for the show. The hotel divided its kitchen in two, with one “stadium-style” kitchen to mimic the one on the show. Patnam practiced handling secret ingredients — beef, chicken, seafood and more — and although he had not cooked with cockles before, he treated them like clams.

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The dishes Patnam created during the show will be available on the menu at Apropoe’s. The butter chicken is on the menu as of Friday, and the cockles will be on the menu starting next week.

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