Coach Knows Best

If you’re fans of Chopped like we are, we’re sure you enjoy the themed episodes (mothers, firemen, cafeteria workers, etc.) just a bit more than the regular ones. Of course, Food Network couldn’t forget about the fathers! Following a recent episode featuring four dads, Herb Hand, Offensive Line Coach at Penn State University, let us into his kitchen playbook.

Coach Herb Hand
Coach Herb Hand

FP: How did you get your start with cooking?

HH: I’ve loved cooking since I was a teen when I cooked dinner with my mom. I continued cooking throughout college and became a Food Network fan from its inception. I’m a big Emeril Lagasse fan and have learned a lot from shows on the network.

FP: Tell us about your experience on Chopped.

HH: Everything about Chopped was first class, from the initial interview process thru the filming of the show. I can say that it was a great experience. One thing that really stuck out was the judges – they were incredibly nice and not necessarily like the persona that you see on the finished product. The other thing that was incredible was the amount of time that it took to film an episode. With the exception of the actual cooking time, the process is rather slow and drawn out.

FP: We’ve heard that the filming days are LONG! What was the most hardest ingredient work with?

HH: The toughest ingredient for me was the scotch. I knew once I saw the tamarind that I was going to go with a Thai theme, so I really struggled with how to fit the scotch in there.

FP: Which round was the most difficult?

HH: The entrée round was clearly the most difficult for me since it was when I got chopped. As soon as it was over, I knew I was in trouble. I wished I would have added some shredded carrots and crushed peanuts to each plate and some cilantro to the sauce and then I would have tossed the rice noodles in the sauce before plating but hindsight is 20/20. I was really focused on cooking the lamb properly and getting all the ingredients on the plate and the clock got to me.

FP: We can only imagine the pressure of cooking under a time limit! What are some of your favorite meals to cook at home for your family?

HH: I love cooking breakfast/brunch food – omelets, fritatas, French toast, etc. I also love cooking on the grill as well as slow cooking meats on my smoker. Making my family good food is a great way to express my love and appreciation to them.

FP: Nothing beats good food with the family!  Name three chefs you would like to cook with in the same kitchen.

HH: Emeril Lagasse, Michael Symon and Gordon Ramsey.

FP: All great chefs indeed! When you go out to eat, name some of your favorite places in your area or other cities you’ve visited.

HH: I currently live in State College, PA and love Kamrai (sushi and Thai) and Happy Valley Brewing Company (get the short rib nachos). Being a college football coach has allowed me to live/travel all around the country. Some of my favorite spots are Roy’s Barbeque in Hutchinson, KS (its open from 11:30 til the food’s gone, so if you want ribs, get there early), Hodadies in San Diego has a great burger and THE best chocolate shake in the country. Period.Tulsa has some great burger joints as well: Bill’s Jumbo, Freddie’s and Fat Guys are three of my favorites and there is an AWESOME Vietnamese place called Ri Le’s in South Tulsa.

Prior to moving to Pennsylvania, we lived in Nashville, TN which has one of the best culinary scenes in the country right now. There are so many great places to choose from there but some of my favorites are Hog Heaven (BBQ), Husk (Farm-to-Table), Monell’s (Family Style), Rosepepper Cantina (Mexican), Desano’s (Wood-fire Pizza), Hattie B’s (Hot Chicken), Sweet 16th Bakery (Breakfast Sandwiches), Las Paletas (popsicles) and Frothy Monkey (Coffee house – GET THE BACON).

FP: Thanks for the great list! A friend just moved to Nashville so we hope to visit in the near future. What are some of your guilty pleasures? We like to call them foodie pleasures, hence the name 🙂

HH : I LOVE ice cream – and coaching at Penn State gives me access to THE best ice cream in the country – hands down – at the Berkey Creamery. If you love ice cream (and really who doesn’t?!?!) then you MUST come to The Creamery on the Penn State campus!

FP: Like you said, who doesn’t love ice cream?! What’s more of a challenge? Cooking in the Chopped kitchen or coming up with a game plans against an opponent?

HH: Both are challenging but very similar in scope. There is a time element that you have to account for, the ingredients change with each basket and with each opponent, there is a lot of pressure to do your very best. You have to be ready for the unexpected in each situation and no matter how much you prepare, things will not always go as planned so you have to be able to adapt, adjust and overcome. The other commonality is that I have passion for both – I love cooking and I love coaching – but one I do for fun and the other pays the bills, so I’m going to go with game planning and coaching.

FP: Thank you so much for your time! Good luck this season at Penn State! 


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