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Heff’s chef Justin Webster on Food Network’s ‘Chopped’

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Winston-Salem chef Justin Webster is riding high once again, just having come off his first national TV cooking competition.

Webster, the chef and majority owner of Heff’s Burger Club in downtown Winston-Salem, appeared in Episode 6, Season 59, of “Chopped” on the Food Network. The episode premiered June 4.

Webster didn’t win, but he did make it to the dessert round – and he had a blast doing it.

“I was terrified,” he said with a laugh. “But it was awesome.”

Webster opened Heff’s just two years ago determined to make even better versions of the fast-food burgers he grew up eating in Winston-Salem in the 1990s.

The restaurant was open less than a year when it got a coveted semifinalist nod from the James Beard Awards in the Best New Restaurant category.

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Webster said that casting agents started reaching out to him about a year ago – apparently as a result of the Beard Awards.

He said that the process of just getting selected was “pretty intensive.”

“It was a three-, four-part interview, with these hourlong Zoom calls with producers and casting agents,” he said. “They are wanting to make sure you re a good cook, one, and also to make sure you have the personality for TV.”

Webster was told he made it in September, and filming took place in January – though he had to still keep the news to himself for months.

Webster said he had never done any TV filming beyond interviews for local news. “It’s as intense as it looks on TV,” he said of “Chopped.”

But he said that everyone in involved was very helpful. “They are super accommodating. They’re really kind. They put you up in a nice place. They’d get you anything you’d ask for. If I said I need a red bowl, a red bowl would magically appear.”

“Chopped” pits four chefs in three rounds to create an appetizer, entrée and dessert in just minutes using mystery ingredients that are revealed on the spot.

The theme for Webster’s episode was guilty pleasures, so chefs were given some odd ingredients and tasked with making some over-the-top dishes.

For the first round, Webster made gochujang honey chicken wings – and managed to use the canned green beans he was given in his basket to make a remoulade sauce.

For the second round, his basket contained butter-flavored soda, ribeye steak, cold French fries and fried pickle. “I ground down the ribeye and made a patty melt and beer-batter fries and a sauce,” he said. “The entree round was the most intense.”

But, again, he survived that round and advanced to the final round, desserts, where he was given gummy hot dogs, strawberries, hazelnut spread, and canned refrigerated cinnamon rolls.

He incorporated the rolls into a batter for fried donut holes and made a strawberry and gummy coulis to go with them.

Webster said he was pleased with his dessert except that the donut holes were a tad undercooked, and that knocked him out of the competition.

“But I feel really good about it. I made it to the final round, and I beat out two really talented chefs.”

More important perhaps, he said, was the experience to try something new. “It made me think outside the box. It challenged me to see what I could do with different ingredients,” he said.

“And it was actually fun. It was really cool the push the boundaries.”



Read More: Heff’s chef Justin Webster on Food Network’s ‘Chopped’

2024-06-10 09:30:00

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