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Chef’s creative dishes prove too tasty for the chopping block

Posted: October 19, 2017

by Jacqueline Mitchell


When given waffle dough, sliced beef shanks in soy sauce, kumquats and mustard greens, concocting a burrito may not be the first thing that comes to mind. But this risky idea helped Adam Bostwick, chef and co-owner of Cork & Cleaver Social Kitchen in Broadview Heights, win the Food Network’s competition show, “Chopped,” plus a prize of $10,000.


“Immediately in my mind, I went to a burrito, which they thought was crazy, but crazy in a good way,” Bostwick said of his standout dish, created during the entrée round of the competition.


After sampling the beef, Bostwick said he knew he needed to do something to alter its flavor. 


“I tasted the meat and said, ‘OK, this needs to be stewed down,’” he said. “It had a really awful smell. I wanted to give them something fun and be ‘me’ at the same time. I thought, ‘I can encase it as a burrito.’


“[Chopped host] Ted Allen was walking by and asked what I was doing.”


When Bostwick revealed his game plan, he recalled, “[Allen] did a double take and started laughing at me and said, ‘You’re serious?’”


But Bostwick’s creativity paid off. Upon tasting the burrito, one of the judges, J.J. Johnson, proclaimed, “This is genius.”


“I was like, ‘Wow, I took crazy things, and they actually enjoyed it,’” Bostwick said.


Of the three dishes he made on the show, he is proudest of the burrito.


“My approach to food is I take food serious, but not that serious,” he said.


The show pitted Bostwick against three other competitors for a waffle-themed challenge, something Bostwick felt comfortable with, based on his culinary experience. His other restaurant, Graffiti: A Social Kitchen, located in Cleveland, regularly serves brunch, and Cork & Cleaver’s menu has featured chicken and waffles in the past.


The chefs competed in three timed rounds: appetizer, entrée and dessert. At the beginning of each round, they were presented with a basket of mystery  ingredients to use to make a dish, with one competitor eliminated by the judges after each tasting. Bostwick’s fellow competitors hailed from restaurants in Memphis, New York City and New Orleans.


Bostwick, who lives in the West Park neighborhood of Cleveland, began the competition with a potato-chip-crusted chicken and waffle panzanella salad. 


“Fortunately, I was really familiar with the ingredients and how to make all this stuff from scratch,” he said.


After whipping up fried peanut butter and jelly cookie dough with ice cream for dessert, Bostwick was declared the winner.


He described himself as “a big fan” of the show. 


“It’s funny, because the way I cook food is very unique,” he said. “I like to take ingredients and use them in different ways. I’ve been told probably 1,000 times, ‘Oh, you should be on “Chopped.” You should be on “Chopped,”’ and lo and behold.”


Last fall, Bostwick received an email from the Food Network with an application attached for the show.


“One of my colleagues who has been involved with the Food Network suggested me for the show,” he said, though he doesn’t know who. The application process also involved a Skype interview and an in-person visit from the network.


Upon walking on set, Bostwick said he instantly sized up the kitchen. Part of the challenge was working efficiently in a foreign setting, he said. 


“There were definitely some stress factors going on,” he said. “When you immediately walk in … you’re thinking, ‘OK, how do I get from point A to point B?’”


Though “Chopped” episodes run an hour, filming took 16-17 hours, Bostwick said, giving him ample time to get to know his competition and analyze their strengths and weaknesses.


The other challenge was time. Bostwick said he was constantly racing against the clock while trying to ensure each dish was perfect. “It was fun, though, at the same time,” he said. “The Food Network is a huge thing. You’re excited and anxious and have all these different emotions going on. And then you realize you’re going to be on national TV.”


Bostwick said perhaps the most difficult aspect was keeping his win a secret for so long. The show filmed in March, but he signed legal documents promising not to reveal any details until the show aired in September. “Knowing that for that long, that’s a really tough thing,” he said.


When the show finally aired, he held watch parties at both of his restaurants. As the competition unfolded on screen, servers brought out dishes of the food Bostwick prepared on the show. He said about 200 people came to watch: “friends, family and some really good customers of ours.”


Since the show aired, Bostwick said diners have visited from Toledo, Akron, Columbus and Cincinnati. A shopper even stopped him at the grocery store. 


“People want to talk about it and come in excited,” he said.


In the future, Bostwick said he might run some of the dishes from the show as specials at his restaurants. The dessert has already made a menu appearance.


As far as the prize money, Bostwick said he has some new restaurant concepts in mind. He would also like to take a vacation, something he said doesn’t happen often with his hectic schedule. 


When asked if he would return to the show, he said, “Absolutely.”


“I’m always looking for another go at it,” he said. “They [‘Chopped’] usually do a champions round. I guess time will tell on that one.”

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