Pastry chef DaVee Harned was leaving work at Millers All Day on a spring afternoon in 2019 when she received a call from Nate Thurston and Greg Johnsman, co-owners of the all-day breakfast eatery. The two restaurateurs excitedly informed Harned that she would have the chance to compete on Food Network's Beat Bobby Flay. That's right, Harned, who spent the early part of her culinary career at esteemed local establishments like Charleston's LB Sweets and Treats and Wild Flour, would participate in the show that pits two rising culinary stars against one another for the opportunity to battle television star Bobby Flay.
"I interviewed for a couple Food Network shows in the past, so I had an idea of the process," explains Harned. "There were quite a few phone and Skype interviews to learn more about my background and hobbies outside of food." Growing up, one of those activities was gymnastics, giving the pastry chef the extra competitive edge needed for this type of show. That, combined with her restaurant experience at Pawpaw, Millers All Day, and now Wild Olive, gave her the necessary tools to succeed on screen.
For those who have not seen Beat Bobby Flay, there are two rounds, starting with a showdown between the two chefs hoping to face Flay. The chefs are asked to use a secret ingredient of Flay's choosing to be the star of a dish in just 20 minutes. The winner then earns 45 minutes to cook their signature dish against the Food Network star.
Miriam Rieder Taylor (Taste by Spellbound, Conn.) was Harned's first round opponent, and although she can't share if she won or not, Harned does say that she had a hunch chocolate would be involved. Based on the name of the episode, "Chocolate Covered Clash," it's safe to assume that she was correct.
How does one prepare for a televised cooking showdown?
For starters, Harned came up with two dishes that she could execute with multiple secret ingredients, practicing them a couple times each week. She also read the blog of a chef who beat Flay, although she says she only found it slightly helpful because it was an episode focused on savory ingredients.
According to Harned, nothing could have truly prepared her for the experience. "The filming lasted from 8 in the morning to 11 at night. I was so exhausted by the end of it."
Harned isn't the only Lowcountry chef to make an appearance on the Food Network. Ken Vedrinkski from Coda Del Pesce and Trattoria Lucca previously competed on Beat Bobby Flay, and Zero Restaurant + Bar's Vinson Petrillo dominated during his appearances on the Food Network, winning both Chopped and Chopped Champions.
Harned couldn't divulge too many details on how the show played out, but the "Chocolate Covered Clash" features chef Michael Voltaggio and actress Drew Barrymore, who judged the first round between Harned and Taylor before assisting the winner with their matchup against Flay. Harned describes meeting Barrymore and Flay as "surreal" and was grateful to have her parents, brother, boyfriend, and best friend in the New York studio in June.
Support the Holy City chef by tuning in for the episode, which airs this Sun. Feb.9 at 10 p.m. EST.