Long Branch chef Jared Brown is trying to prove that the East Coast does summer food best.
The executive chef at Rooney’s Oceanfront Restaurant—one of New Jersey Monthly‘s favorite raw bars—joined Team East Coast on the Food Network’s Beachside Brawl. The show, which premiered June 19, presents Team East Coast (led by Chef Tiffani Faison) and Team West Coast (led by Chef Brooke Williamson) with an array of challenges set by Chef Antonia Lofaso.
In the first episode, Brown was forced into the Survival Round, where he was in jeopardy of being sent home. But he earned his way back into the competition with a fried lobster French fries dish.
For Brown, stepping into the competition kitchen for the first time was nothing like he’d ever experienced.
“The first time they stick a camera in your face and into your food is nerve-wracking,” he says.
The show airs Sundays at 10 pm ET, and Brown is still in the competition. The finale is set to air on July 24.
What was it like meeting Chefs Tiffani Faison, Brooke Williamson and Antonia Lofaso?
Jared Brown: I’ll turn on the Food Network on a regular day and see all of them, so it was amazing to be standing right next to them. Just to be able to cook with Tiffani was crazy. Taking over four chefs with four different cooking styles, and giving them live advice, is so impressive. I never really comprehended how hard it is to judge, and how you really have to comprehend food and break down each individual part of the dish. Listening to Antonia critique the dishes was impressive.
What was it like working with your East Coast teammates?
New Jersey does kind of lend itself to a bit of New England style, especially at the Shore. The general refinement that all the chefs had and were able to bring to their respective areas. We all melded very well together.
What was your biggest challenge?
Competition cooking is very different. To be in a brand new kitchen, where things are placed differently than my own kitchen, you have to get used to it very quickly. You have to pack so much flavor into one dish. Sometimes at the restaurant people can say things like there’s too much acidity, too much salt, whereas in a competition everything has to be over the top. You have to change your thought process a little bit when you realize you’re cooking for some of the most well-versed palates in America.
How did you feel stepping into competition for the first time?
I’m not going to lie, the first challenge, I was very nervous. I was completely out of my element, but once you get to that second week, I felt a little more like I knew what I was doing. It really becomes fun after that. I’d love to do something like it again.
What’s your favorite thing about East Coast/New Jersey cuisine?
We have such versatility. Going from lobster rolls from Maine and then the New England area with chowders and such. And we’re the Garden State, with so many veggies and fresh things, especially in the spring and summer. If you were to put just the East Coast on its own, it’s almost like going to a different country compared to the other areas of the U.S.
What’s new at Rooney’s this summer?
In the summertime we have some fun dishes. We have an octopus special that is pretty playful. We have a lot of classics that have been at the restaurant for a long time that we feel we’re refining and bringing to a new level. When I got to Rooney’s, I wanted to up the level of cooking and teach the staff how to be more consistent in what they do.