Robert Sisca has bouillabaisse bragging rights.
The executive chef and partner at Bistro du Midi cooked the Mediterranean seafood stew on Thursday night’s episode of “Beat Bobby Flay” and came out victorious over the Food Network show’s eponymous chef. That’s right: Sisca beat Bobby Flay.
“It was great because I’m a pretty hard critic on myself,” Sisca said.
The local chef gathered with nearly 50 friends and family at Bistro du Midi in the Back Bay on Thursday to watch himself compete on season 16 of the show. Sisca said cooking on camera wasn’t as hard as he thought it would be.
“Of course I was a little nervous going on the show, with all the cameras and everything,” he said. “[But] once I was there, I just treated it like my kitchen and it was awesome. I was just in the zone, in my element, and had a great time.”
Sisca said the show, which had his contact information from a casting call he attended in Rhode Island in 2010, reached out last year. Before he could compete against Flay, Sisca said he had to go head-to-head with Michael Brennan, a chef in Atlantic City. The men were given a “secret ingredient” — skirt steak — and 20 minutes to cook it. Sisca won the challenge. He said he had no idea what the ingredient would be, so he practiced cooking different dishes in 20 minutes and made a point to rehearse with meat, because he usually cooks seafood.
With that victory under his belt, Sisca faced off against Flay in January with his signature dish: bouillabaisse.
The time restriction posed an added challenge, Sisca said.
“The bouillabaisse we make [at Bistro du Midi] takes four days to make,” he said. “You have 45 minutes to make it [on the show]. So it was like, ‘Can I make this in 45 minutes?'”
Before the taping, Sisca practiced foregoing his usual routine of soaking, roasting, simmering, and cooling his ingredients over several days.
“Pretty much, I took everything and just added more ingredients to it to make it more concentrated,” he said. “So instead of a tablespoon of fennel seed, you’d add five tablespoons of fennel seed. That was pretty much with everything. Instead of a pinch of saffron, I added a handful of saffron.”
So what comes next after you beat Bobby Flay?
“Now,” Sisca said, “I’ll have people come to the restaurant and have the award-winning bouillabaisse.”