Sylvia Casares, the powerhouse behind Sylvia’s Enchilada Kitchen, wasn’t one of those chefs that went looking for her 15 minutes of television fame — but when it came looking for her, she felt it was something she had to do. In tonight’s episode of Beat Bobby Flay, airing at 9:00 p.m. on The Food Network, Casares goes head to head with the cooking hotshot.
"I know Tex-Mex food so well, and it seldom gets any play on The Food Network," she says. "And I figured I knew more about it than Bobby Flay, and it’s always been important to me to help people have an understanding of this regional cuisine."
So what happened when Sylvia met Bobby? Casares says after a series of emails and a grueling background check that was so thorough it felt like an FBI investigation, she flew up to New York City in January to tape the episode.
"It lasted all day," she recalls. "I arrived at 8:00 in the morning; I don’t think we left until 10:00 at night." She admits to being a little bit intimidated. "I’m a self-taught chef. My background is recipe development and teaching other people to replicate things. So, even though I was in the kitchen of my restaurants for years – was everything, front and back of house – it’s been a while. And there was so much speed to it."
The premise of the show is that two chefs compete against each other for the chance to go head-to-head against Bobby. They use ingredients Bobby chooses and have 20 minutes to create and plate a dish for four, which is evaluated by a panel of judges.
How’d Sylvia do? Well, for that, you have to tune in. And the restaurant is hosting a watch party at Sylvia’s Woodway location for friends and family, to cheer on Sylvia’s TV debut. (The show repeats on June 26 and July 4)
"We’re having happy hour pricing and I’ve got some cool appetizers," she says. "Some little flautas and gorditas, chips and queso."
The restaurant is setting up a big-screen tv in the dining room, and the bar has two. Casares readily admits she’s not exactly relishing the idea of seeing herself on TV, but she says she’s glad she did the program.
"So much of the process [of the show] is about entertainment," she said. "About creating that drama. I always wished that Bobby Flay would come here, to the restaurant. That didn’t happen. But I went to him."