Small Screen Dreams

Thursday, May 13: The Mantu chef Hamid Noori tries to beat Bobby Flay.

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“At first I thought it was a scam,” laughs The Mantu chef Hamid Noori. “Even when they flew me to New York and the car pulled up, I wasn’t sure if it was real.”

Within the first few months of opening his modern Afghan cuisine restaurant in 2019, Noori was asked to be a guest chef on the Food Network’s cooking competition, “Beat Bobby Flay.”

The premise of the show is simple: Two talented chefs compete against each other using a secret ingredient – in Noori’s case, snow peas – and the winner of the first round takes on the celebrity chef and cookbook author, Mr. Bobby Flay.

We won't tell you how Noori fared against first round competitor chef Lien Lin, but he did let us know that he was not particularly enthused about the secret ingredient, “I don’t ever really work with them, though when they interviewed me during the show I think I said I did!”

Noori says the show’s live audience, bright lights and fast-paced cooking rounds were merely background noise, “I was focused on what I was doing.” He was well-prepared for the pressure, too.

The Afghanistan-born chef has worked in restaurants all of his adult life, from tackling triple shifts in his home country (with a toddler, to boot) to owning his own fine-dining Carytown establishment.

“One time when I was working at a hotel [in Afghanistan], 25 of our kitchen staff quit in one day. We were left with only four people, so we had to become 25 people to serve hundreds of guests,” Noori says.

Noori isn’t the only River City chef to get 15 minutes on the small screen in 2021.

Chef and owner Brittanny Anderson of Brenner Pass, Metzger Bar & Butchery and Black Lodge appeared on “Top Chef” season 18 this April; local baker Keya Wingfield took home first place during season seven of Food Network’s “Spring Baking Championship”; and chef Steve Glenn will appear on “Hell's Kitchen” Young Guns on Monday, May 31.

“I still cannot believe I went to compete with a star chef who is well-known around the world,” Noori says. “For me it is a miracle. It’s tough to believe things are happening the way you want.”

Cheer on Noori on “Beat Bobby Flay” season 28, episode 2 this Thursday May 13, 8 p.m., and follow The Mantu on Instagram for updates about its new lunch buffet offerings that launch in early summer.