Chef Robbie Jester has been a very busy man since July 15th, 2016, when he “Beat Bobby Flay” in front of a national audience on the Food Network. He juggles multiple requests for radio and TV interviews, and brides and businesses are calling his restaurant, the Stone Balloon Ale House, more than ever before to reserve space for private events. The Rodney Street Tennis & Tutoring Association is the first non-profit to approach Jester since his big win to ask him to prepare a meal for an upcoming fundraiser that is open to the public, “Servin’ Up a Winner!” on November 9th, at a newly-renovated barn in New Castle.
While Delaware’s newest celebrity chef seems to revel in the new opportunities to share his flair for American cuisine, he’s also grounded in the fact that he’s doing what he loves and staying focused on preparing incredible plates for every guest he serves.
Town Square Delaware: For starters, how the heck did all of this come about?
Robbie Jester: All of this came to be because I attended a Top Chef casting call.
I made it through several interviews and wasn’t selected, but then the people from Guy’s Grocery Games called me and told me that they worked with some of the Top Chef people and that they’d be interested in me. Thats all she wrote!
Then I filled out a general application for the company that casts Beat Bobby Flay and they called. There is always an initial phone interview, then a Skype interview. That is edited and pitched to producers who will call you and give you a final 3-4 hour long phone interview.
TSD: Did you have an opportunity to get to meet other competitors?
Robbie Jester: You are all kind of sequestered together. In my experience, we all had wonderful conversation and are still friends to this day. Almost all of my fellow competitors have gone on to do other TV competitions and we are rooting each other on from behind the scenes.
TSD: This is getting in the weeds, but many Food Network fans might be interested … Do they basically have everything you could ever want to cook with in that kitchen?! It seems like the pantry and fridge are always stocked.
Robbie Jester: The pantry and fridge are well stocked but obviously it has its limits. In some cases they will allow you to bring a few of your favorite condiments but in most cases what you see is what you use and you have to be able to adapt.
TSD: Bobby is clearly a competitive guy — take us inside that showdown … There must be pretty intense pressure in front of that studio audience.
Robbie Jester: For me…not really. I go into these things with such a position of gratitude that I want to just have a blast and cook great food. My family will love me no matter what so I can really just be free. Sure I want to dominate, but pressure is not really what I’d call it. More like direction.
I play competitive pool, and we have a saying when the table is in bad shape, “You’re both playing the same table.” Bobby has just as much pressure to perform as me. It levels the field.
TSD: Just curious: your victory must have made you a global hero to people around the world who love the show. Have you heard from a lot of non-Delaware people since the win?
Robbie Jester: It has been emotionally overwhelming for me how supportive everyone has been. Tons of people have reached out to me from across the country and globe. I wouldn’t call myself a hero, but I do try to remain humble and answer everything that comes my way. It might take a while, but I will answer.