There must be something good in the water in Austin, TX because it seems like every other episode of Chopped has a talented contestant from the city. We recently spoke to Chef Jason Stude, Chef de Cuisine at Second Bar + Kitchen and recent Chopped Champion about his journey from a family-run pizza joint to the “bright lights” of television.
FP: How did you get your start with cooking?
JS: I got my start in the culinary world at Alesi’s Pizza and Italian food in Lafayette, LA. My uncle’s parents and sons have run the restaurant for over 40 years. I started there when I was 15 years old as a busboy and doing some light prep. I loved it there.
FP: Name some chefs that have inspired you.
JS: I would be remiss to not thank the mentors I have had throughout my career. Terry Conlan of Lake Austin Spa and Resort, Fred Perry and of course my current employer, David Bull.
I can’t say for sure that any particular chef has influenced my cooking, but there are many that influenced me through philosophy, ethic and of course technique. Thomas Keller would probably be the biggest influence in that sense. Charlie Trotter would be another.
FP: It’s always great to have mentors along the journey! We’re very sorry to hear about the passing of Charlie Trotter.
Tell us about your experience on Chopped.
JS: Chopped was a great experience. It is as difficult as it looks. Time moves very fast and it’s not like working in your own restaurant where you can basically close your eyes and turn corners to find the product that you know you have. I really had a great time on the show.
FP: We get nervous listening to Ted Allen count down so we can only imagine the pressure you were under!
What was the hardest ingredient(s) to work with?
JS: I think the most difficult items to work with were either the pan of Lasagna in the appetizer round or the German Chocolate Cake we were given in the entree round. Both of those were rough, but that’s the game.
FP: Which round was the most difficult?
JS: Desert was definitely the hardest of all the rounds though. I was pretty worn out at that point.
FP: When you’re not working at Second Bar + Kitchen, what are some of your favorite meals to cook at home for yourself and/or for guests?
JS: I love to cook at the house for April and Josephine, my wife and daughter. The unfortunate part of being a chef is that while you know how to cook any number of things, you really don’t have that much time.
I really like making simple dishes for them like Mac and Cheese, salads and breakfast. I like making breakfast. If we have people over I tend to go to the farmers market and let the ingredients tell me what they want to be.
FP: When you go out to eat, name some of your favorite places in Austin or other cities you’ve visited?
JS: Some of the restaurants I really like in Austin are Uchi, Parkside, and Contigo. There are a ton of other restaurants that I really like but I truthfully, very rarely make it out to eat at this point in life. My wife is an excellent cook so that tends to be what I go for.
When I was in New York to shoot Chopped, I made it to Momofuko, which was great and then to a Japanese restaurant in St. Marks Place called Kenka. It was insane, one of the more fun dining experiences I’ve had.
FP: We REALLY need to eat at Momofuko. We’ve heard nothing but great things about it!
What are some of your guilty pleasures? We like to call them foodie pleasures, hence the name 🙂
JS: I have a ton of guilty pleasures. I can admit that my diet consists mostly of tacos. AND most of those tacos have chips on them. I need crunchy and chewy at every meal.
FP: We LOVE tacos! Throw some chips with guacamole in and we’re happy!
If you weren’t a chef, what would you be doing? What are your non-cooking hobbies?
JS: If I weren’t a Chef I really don’t know what I would be. It’s who I am. I’m a cook for life. I’d probably be bored in my profession, say, maybe selling insurance for instance, dreaming of becoming a chef one day. I’m glad the kitchen chose me.
FP: The people in Austin are sure glad the kitchen chose you! Thank you again for your time. When we visit Austin, we’ll make sure to reach out. We wish you continued success!