Chef Ian Russo, executive chef and owner of Dirtyburger in Plainview, had his dream come true when he competed on Beat Bobby Flay, a popular Food Network show featuring celebrity chef and Amagansett resident Bobby Flay.
The episode, “Rules Are Meant to be Broken,” aired on Thursday, January 7, and Friday, January 8, and featured Chopped host Ted Allen and comedian Margaret Cho, who were judges in the first round.
In Round 1, two competing chefs were given a single ingredient and had to create a dish on the fly. The winning chef went on to Round 2 to compete against Bobby Flay.
Russo competed against Diane DiMeo, executive chef and owner of BarRachos Mexican restaurant in Brooklyn. The single ingredient chosen by Bobby Flay was tuna steak.
Russo created a dish with Hawaiin and French influences, a surf-and-turf style seared tuna with bacon, mushrooms and Swiss chard in a cinnamon, red wine gastrique. DiMeo made smoked sashimi tuna with mint chimchurri, grilled tomatoes, corn and pickled red onion. Although DiMeo’s dish seemed somewhat disconnected and her tuna not properly seared, judge Margaret Cho claimed Russo’s sauce too sweet. In a joint consensus, Cho and Allen gave Russo the boot, ending his chances.
Russo made a graceful exit, and Bobby Flay ended up winning Round 2 against DiMeo with his Mexican tostados dish.
I met up with Russo to find out about his experience:
What was it like meeting Bobby Flay and Tim Allen?
Russo: It was most incredible. During the filming you don’t really get to talk to them. Bobby just really comes out when he’s going up against you. But just being in the same room as them, it was amazing. It was really cool.
Were you nervous, because you looked really calm?
Russo: I was not nervous at all. It’s [cooking is] just like breathing to me. It’s true that when they tell you the ingredient, you know just then. You don’t know before, so it’s real. In 30 seconds you have to decide, and that’s the moment where you can’t go back. I was thinking about doing a Hawaiian Ahi dish, but then I wasn’t confident enough. But I wasn’t nervous. I felt great. I do what I do. So when they said the ingredient, I knew I would figure it out.
How much time do they give you to complete the dish?
Russo: Fifteen minutes. You have to figure the dish out right away; if not, you’re wasting time. You just have to go with your gut.
So it was ultimately the sweet sauce that didn’t advance you to Round 2?
Russo: I usually put star anise, cloves, more black pepper, and I probably didn’t nail it. I probably could have had more acid to balance it too.
If you had advanced to the next round, what is it that you would have made?
Russo: I would have done a Dirty pork burrito. I would have braised it in a pressure cooker, shred it, and sautéed it with Dirty honey. Inside the tortilla, some sour cream, rice. I’d cook it until it’s real crispy. It’s amazing. It’s almost better than the burger. If I would have had the chance to execute it, there was no way he [Bobby] would ever beat it.
To try some of Russo’s amazing Dirty burgers and other dishes, visit his restaurant at 12 Manetto Hill Plaza in Plainview. Hours are Monday – Saturday 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 9 pm.