Food Network winner Chef Joe Rego loses in local seafood cook-off

By Douglas McCulloch | Jul 27, 2017
Photo by: Douglas McCulloch Chef Joe Rego cuts up the fish.

Chef Joe Rego has proven himself with winning appearances on the Food Network’s “Chopped” and “Cutthroat Kitchen,” but his ability to work under pressure was not enough to take down the competition on the South Coast.

Rego, head chef at Dartmouth’s Cask & Pig and Fairhaven’s The Pasta House, took on Mattapoisett chef Edward Roszak in the New Bedford Seafood Throwdown on July 27. Neither team knew what they’d be preparing come game time, but they were each allowed to bring three ingredients.

Rego and his teammate Chef Mike Galary had decided beforehand to tackle a seafood gumbo. They brought along gumbo spice, okra, and linguica for a touch of local flavor. When the mystery fish was revealed to be hake, the team continued with their plan.

Both teams were allowed a strict $25 budget to purchase vegetables and spices at the nearby New Bedford Farmer’s Market as part of the competition. Lacking the necessary ingredients, Rego had to get creative.

“When you make gumbo, you have to use butter and flour to make the roux, so it was kind of hard to thicken the soup. I had to improvise,” Rego said.

He boiled potatoes he had purchased with fish stock to help thicken the gumbo, and used the remaining potatoes in place of rice to serve with it.

Despite rave reviews from the four judges, Roszak — chef at How on Earth — took the win by a small margin. He had served his hake dredged in garbanzo, topped with a sautée of sunburst tomatoes, green beans, zucchini squash, and flavorings he had purchased.

The dish was one of two plans Roszak and fellow Chef Mark Swierkowski had come up with in five minutes the day before the competition.

“We had a Plan A and a Plan B. Plan A was to do something with a little bit more Spanish flavor, and Plan B was this idea,” Roszak said. “When we saw the hake, we flipped to Plan B, especially with the rain because it was a little more brothy and more warm.”

Roszak said he wasn’t worried when he realized he’d be facing Rego.

“I’ve spent my entire life cooking,” Roszak said. “I started at 13, and I’ve cooked in Los Angeles. I’ve cooked in Boston.”

The seafood throwdown was held at Custom House Square in New Bedford, organized by several local and national fisheries organizations to raise awareness of the New Bedford fishing industry.

 

 

Joe Rego carries the fish just as the competition begins. (Photo by: Douglas McCulloch)
A young crowd watches Mike Galary cut vegetables. (Photo by: Douglas McCulloch)
Judges taste Rego's gumbo. (Photo by: Douglas McCulloch)
Rego and his competitor work side-by-side. (Photo by: Douglas McCulloch)
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