Thursday, July 19, 2018
Dining

Florida chef Jeanie Roland talks competing on ‘Iron Chef Gauntlet’ and the time she beat Bobby Flay

In August 2015, Punta Gorda chef Jeanie Roland beat world-famous Bobby Flay with her signature moules-frites (thatís mussels and fries). Letís say Flay got filleted by a petite, now 51-year-old chef in a fairly sleepy waterside Florida town not known for its gastronomic moxie. (I would never have bet against her.)

And now sheís in battle again, this time on Food Networkís Iron Chef Gauntlet, the second season debuting at 9 p.m. Wednesday.

MORE TV: What to watch this week

I first met her and husband, James, more than a dozen years ago at their restaurant in charming Punta Gorda, halfway between Sarasota and Naples. With its rigorous sourcing and envelope-pushing presentations, it was impossible not to ask, "What is this restaurant doing here?" A 1992 graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, Roland was resolutely making just about everything in house before anyone in these parts was doing so. She went on to be a seven-time James Beard Foundation nominee for Best Chef: South and a nine-time Florida Trend Golden Spoon winner.

Try These: Tampa Bayís Top 50 Restaurants for 2018

Their gourmet-shop-turned-165-seat restaurant opened in 2001; their second restaurant Ellaís Food and Drink in Westerly, R.I., launched in 2012, the Rolands shuttling between. I caught up with her in Florida to talk about her strategies for battling incomparable Iron Chefs Alex Guarnaschelli, Stephanie Izard and Michael Symon (not to mention her six fellow competitors). She wasnít allowed to say precisely how she fared in the Kitchen Stadium in the six-episodes overseen by Alton Brown, nor whether she joined the Iron Chef pantheon, but Iím reading between the lines.

Why did you go on Beat Bobby Flay?

Iíve been cooking a long time and Iíd never done anything like that, but the Beat Bobby Flay show is pretty legit, no stop-and-go, thereís a real timeframe. To prep, I went through the task: Thai curry mussels with French fries and three dipping sauces. I had never made an authentic curry before. Three years later I got the call go to on Gauntlet.

Why did you decide to become a contestant?

I knew the Iron Chef brand and thought it was something I could do. Itís a big production, with a couple hundred people on set. Itís one of biggest programs, and no one can apply ó they come to you. Iím willing to take a risk and put myself out there, to think outside the box. They want you to make things that you donít make in your restaurant. And I figured I could do that on the show.

Whatís the format of the show?

Itís a seven-week production, each week one chef is eliminated. Each segment has a winner and a loser, and Alton Brown picks the timeframe and the nature of the challenge. Then you go in the next battle, which is an hour with three dishes, and you make three of each dish. The best chef wins. I timed myself and challenged myself with things that I donít normally cook. I used a pressure cooker for the first time and ingredients like pork blood.

What was the biggest challenge?

The thing that gets in the way of doing your best is ultimately yourself and how you handle the pressure. Itís made for drama and excitement, so you have to be able to execute under those circumstances. Thereís no time to be starstruck. Youíre going up against some of the best chefs in the country and then getting judged by even better chefs. Win or lose, itís a great thing.

Contact Laura Reiley at [email protected] or (727) 892-2293. Follow @lreiley.

 
Comments
Deep-fried wonders at Plant City Strawberry Festival to be featured on Cooking Channel

Deep-fried wonders at Plant City Strawberry Festival to be featured on Cooking Channel

The strawberry-laden and deep-fried wonders of Plant Cityís Florida Strawberry Festival will be featured on two episodes of the TV series Carnival Eats, the first on July 29.The Cooking Channel series features host Noah Cappe as he marvels at the "ga...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Nitallyís set to reopen at a new, more intimate, South Pasadena location

Nitallyís set to reopen at a new, more intimate, South Pasadena location

Folks who have missed testing their taste buds with a St. Petersburg eateryís famous inferno soup will get a chance to do so once again.Nitallyís ThaiMex Cuisine, which closed its downtown St. Petersburg location in May, will open soon in a smaller l...
Published: 07/18/18
Where to eat and drink around Safety Harbor: Gigglewaters bar, Parts of Paris, Sno Beach and more

Where to eat and drink around Safety Harbor: Gigglewaters bar, Parts of Paris, Sno Beach and more

Not that many years ago, downtown Safety Harbor was a little lean on places to eat. Green Springs Bistro had been an anchor, Whistle Stop and Celloís Char House, too. But no one would have called it a dining destination. It was too bad: The city of 1...
Published: 07/18/18
Eat and drink your way through Tampa Heights with stops at Hall on Franklin, Armature Works and more

Eat and drink your way through Tampa Heights with stops at Hall on Franklin, Armature Works and more

Five or six years ago, if you were to stand on the steps of the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts and look north along the Hillsborough River, there wouldnít be much to see. Just a couple of old warehouses and some rubble in the area ...
Published: 07/18/18
In South Tampa, create a dinearound with stops at Bernís, Haven and the Epicurean Hotel

In South Tampa, create a dinearound with stops at Bernís, Haven and the Epicurean Hotel

I had a specific vision for my 35th birthday.Relaxation mostly. Bathrobe. Wine. Maybe a massage or a pool. Food, food, food. A handful of close friends. I did some research at beach hotels in Clearwater and St. Pete Beach and found the price range ou...
Published: 07/18/18
Bowled over: From acai to poke, the top 10 bowls in Tampa Bay

Bowled over: From acai to poke, the top 10 bowls in Tampa Bay

Why, exactly, are bowls the new plates?The Wall Street Journal declared it so. Tableware companies like Fiesta have reported serious double-digit growth in the sale of bowls ó salad bowls, cereal bowls, you name it. Fast-food restaurants have jumped ...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Ybor City mainstay La Segunda opens second location, introduces seating

Ybor City mainstay La Segunda opens second location, introduces seating

TAMPA ó Itís like stepping off Kennedy Boulevard right into Ybor City.From the exposed brick and wrought iron accents to the street lamp-styled globe lights hanging from the ceiling and the signage ó blue and red divided by a ribbon of gold ó the new...
Published: 07/17/18
Updated: 07/18/18
This Florida burger joint is one of the 10 best in America, travel website says

This Florida burger joint is one of the 10 best in America, travel website says

A 2Ĺ-hour drive south could land Tampa residents at one of Americaís best burger joints, according the review and travel website TripAdvisor.com.The website released a list of the "10 Most Delectable Burger Joints" in America on Wednesday, placing Na...
Published: 07/14/18
Friday is National French Fry Day. Find (free!) fries in Tampa Bay.

Friday is National French Fry Day. Find (free!) fries in Tampa Bay.

Guess what Friday is? Itís National Fry Day (#FRYdayThe13th, see what they did there?). Fun fact: Their origin story may not lie in France but in Belgium. So why do we credit France? Thomas Jefferson is said to have introduced deep-fried potatoes at ...
Published: 07/11/18
We got a preview of the food at Osteria, the new Tampa restaurant from Top Chefís Fabio Viviani

We got a preview of the food at Osteria, the new Tampa restaurant from Top Chefís Fabio Viviani

TAMPA ó The evening began with chef Fabio Viviani telling the group to fork the fluffy coccoli in front of us, break it open then stuff it with the cold smoked prosciutto de Parma and stracchino cheese delicately laid out on wooden boards. "Stracchin...
Published: 07/10/18