Chefs Roman Paumier, Bobby Flay, and Avishar Barua on the set of Beat Bobby Flay (Courtesy/Food Network Instagram)
On Thursday, May 11, Beat Bobby Flay featured Avishar Danny Barua‘05 in a thrilling, culinary competition. For those unfamiliar with the show, Beat Bobby Flay welcomes notable chefs from all over the country to see if they can beat Bobby Flay, a renowned celebrity chef, restaurateur, and reality television personality who is the owner and executive chef of several restaurants and franchises.
In the first round, two chefs must first compete against each other before either of them can battle Flay. Barua battled against Romain Paumier, a French chef who interned with the renowned restauranteer, Daniel Boulod. Flay chose a main ingredient that both Barua and Paumier would have to use, a dorade, which is a type of fish. To avoid bias, Flay’s co-hosts decided who would move forward based on each chef’s dish, but both chefs only had 20 minutes to prepare. Barua produced a tempura fried dorade with yellow curry, and Flay’s co-hosts loved its savory, cultural taste. As a result, Barua beat Paumier in the first round, giving him the chance to, maybe, beat Chef Flay.
Chef Barua got to select the dish that Flay will also have to make, and he chose Kati rolls, an Indian layered paratha wrap with a filling of grilled kebabs, green chutney or sauces, shredded veggies, and sometimes with eggs. Barua impressed the co-hosts by making his paratha (bread) from scratch and coated it in ghee–a butter used in South Asian cooking–to enhance the taste of the bread. Mixing up chaat masala and maple syrup, he balanced the sweetness and spicy flavors together. Then, he separated the fillings and wrapped them with foils, just like they would be on the streets of South Asia. Both Flay and Barua had different styles of cooking and presentations, but Barua’s traditional style wowed the audience and added the South Asian flair that Flay’s was missing.
After the three judges came out to taste both rolls, they loved the blend of sauces and the different textures that Flay’s rolls had. However, they lacked the cultural presentation of a traditional Kati roll. For Barua’s, they enjoyed the crispiness of the dough and the way the flavors came together, although it was missing texture. After the judges voted, Barua won the competition, even though he “never thought [he] could beat Bobby Flay” (Barua). Barua cartwheeled off the stage, happy that he just beat a chef as notable as Flay.
Barua, a 2005 Academy graduate, attended The Ohio State University. Despite wanting to pursue a doctorate degree, he later fell in love with the art of cooking, and he co-opened his first restaurant in 2017 called Service Bar. Then he competed on Season 18 of Top Chef, a learning experience that taught him how to “be criticized at the highest level” (Experience Columbus). Following his reality TV debut, he launched Joya’s in 2022, a day-time cafe, and earlier this year, he introduced his newest dinner spot called Agni. Both restaurants feature Bengali-American style cuisines, reflecting Barua’s identity and origin of his passion for cooking.
Congratulations, Chef Barua!