Daniel Bojorquez, executive chef at in Natick, and reportedly a protoge of L'Espalier's Frank McClelland, is planning to open a South American-influenced restaurant on East Broadway in April, likely to much fanfare.
The food at Brasa will be cooked over open fire, and the menu will feature Mexican, American and Asian dishes.
Bojorquez is also winner of a recent Thanksgiving episode of "Chopped" on the Food Network. What's more, he plans to use his $10,000 in winnings to open the Somerville restaurant, something he's dreamed of doing ever since he was a teenager.
Here, the chef talks about his experience on the Food Network cooking competition, courtesy of our friends at Natick Patch.
Competing on "Chopped"
If you were given a turkey, potatoes and cranberry sauce, you might know how to whip up a Thanksgiving meal. But if you were supplied a turducken, polenta log, seafood sausage and pumpkin beer, could you do the same?
In each episode of the popular show, four new chefs from all over the country go up against each other in what is perhaps the network’s most feared challenge. Chefs must make it through three rounds without being eliminated in order to win the $10,000 prize. For the appetizer, main course and dessert rounds they are given baskets filled with secret ingredients that they only discover once the countdown clock begins. And if that’s not tricky enough, the ingredients are deliberately selected to make pairings that have perhaps never before been seen in the culinary world.
“The show is hard,” said Mexican-born Bojorquez, who has been executive chef at Sel De La Terre since it opened in 2007. “The hardest thing about that show is they’ll give you things that aren’t even edible,” noting the Indian corn he had to use in the entrée round.
In the end, Bojorquez, 31, fought his way to win over the stomachs of celebrity chef judges Alex Guarnaschelli, Aaron Sanchez and Marc Murphy. His winning dishes: maple syrup polenta cornmeal soup with seafood sausage and pomegranate seeds topped with shaved apple and celery to start; a turducken sandwich topped with cheese and concord grape and onion chutney and roasted sugar pumpkin for a main course; and a roulade stuffing with instant potato flakes, cranberries and orange glaze for dessert.
The show, which was filmed before Thanksgiving 2010, first aired on Nov. 15 of this year. Bojorquez watched the show unfold on the televisions at the restaurant, surrounded by friends, family and coworkers.
“Now that I was watching the show, everyone goes ‘you look so calm,’ but I remember when I was in the show I was so stressed. In my head I was like running around, but I looked at myself on the TV and I looked calm—I’m like that’s weird, I remember freaking out all day,” he said.
Even with the excitement of winning Chopped, Bojorquez had to keep the win a secret from everyone until they saw it unfold for themselves—a difficult task considering he won the money he needed to start the restaurant he had dreamed of opening since his culinary path began at age 17.