By Michael Kane BANNER EDITOR
David deCastro of Boylston has cut his own path throughout his 34 years, and one of his most exciting experiences was caught on national television last week for many to enjoy.
The young, but experienced chef appeared on Food Network’s “Beat Bobby Flay,” on Thursday, March 5, competing against Taichi Kitamura, a chef from Japan who owns his own restaurant in Seattle.
He lost, but had an experience of a lifetime.
deCastro is a chef with experience cooking the world over, who got his first culinary experience at The Other Place Pub in Boylston.
Marty Shaughnessy, owner of The Other Place Pub, spoke fondly of deCastro.
“I’m so proud of him,” Shaughnessy said. “With his own drive, and the love and help of his family, David’s a true success story. He’s just done so much.”
Last week, sitting where it all began, at The Other Place, DeCastro recounted his Food Network experience.
“I did my first interview with Food Network before I went to Haiti with my mom at the end of November last year,” he said. “They were interested in me because they wanted someone from the Boston area. They said they’d wait until I got back from Haiti.”
Haiti is a place that deCastro’s mother, Eileen deCastro, has done humanitarian work for nearly two decades.
“This was the second time I went to Haiti with her. I went 17 years ago, for the first time. It’s good to do a lot of work there. We went on Nov. 21, came back on Dec. 3,” deCastro said.
His return meant an immediate shifting of gears to get ready for national television.
“I came back and had several interviews for Food Network. There were producers, casting agents … it was pretty interesting.,” he said.
deCastro has a broad range of cooking experience that qualified him for competing on Food Network. His experiences have included being a Sous Chef at Winslow’s Tavern in Wellfleet, a chef de partie at the New York Yacht Club in Newport, R.I., an executive chef at the Spice Mill Restaurant in Cockleshell Beach, St. Kitts, West Indies, and a commis chef/intern at the Crown Casino in Melbourne, Australia, the largest casino in the southern hemisphere.
“I worked in nine restaurants in one year, there,” deCastro said of his Crown Casino experience.
All these experiences came after deCastro spent four years in the Army and earned a bachelor’s degree from Johnson and Wales University, with honors, and a 3.6 cumulative grade point average.
And that’s just a fragment of the young cook’s experience.
“I’ve worked at restaurants in 23 countries during my life,” he said.
Local experience, after his beginning as a dishwasher, pizza and salad maker at The Other Place in Boylston, has included being a line cook at The Olde Post Office Pub in Grafton. He has also enjoyed work in Delray Beach, Fla., as a chef de partie at 32 East, a contemporary American bistro.
So deCastro felt ready for the “Beat Bobby Flay” challenge.
“I look up to Bobby Flay, so to to be able to possibly compete against him was incredible,” deCastro said.
The opportunity to meet Flay, according to deCastro, was a thrill.
“In between shots, he came up to us and shook our hands. He told us ‘good luck,’ and thanked us for being there,” deCastro said.
The young cook’s response to Flay was from the heart, almost boyish.
“I told him, ‘Thank you for having me.’ I really look up to him,” deCastro said.
In the “Beat Bobby Flay” television contest, two cooks are given 20 minutes and a fully stocked kitchen to prepare a dish of their own choosing.
“Two minutes before the show starts, you’re told what ingredients you can use, what you can’t use,” he said.
“When Bobby Flay starts the clock, you’re given a ‘secret ingredient’ that must be the focal point of the dish you prepare,” deCastro said.
“Our secret ingredient was a two-pound porterhouse steak. I was pretty comfortable with that. I prepared it with a steak house feel,” deCastro said.
The dish that deCastro prepared used butter and rosemary to flavor the steak, which rested atop grilled onions and also incorporated melted bleu cheese. Covering the dish was a spicy citrus balsamic glaze.
deCastro put forth a confident front on television.
“They wanted us to be like that,” deCastro said. “They really want you to be cocky, like, ‘Sure, I can beat Bobby Flay.’ I’m just not like that, so that was hard for me,” he said.
But overall, “The Food Network experience was just great,” de Castro said.
“They put us up in The Hudson Hotel in Manhattan, and it was just an unbelievable experience,” he said.
Unfortunately, deCastro did not make it to round two of the cooking competition, which would have led him to a direct competition against Flay.
The Food Network judges, though they had high praise for deCastro’s dish, preferred his competitor’s preparation using soy sauce, beef broth and butter, and using two different sauces for two different meats.
deCastro was reflective about the whole Food Network experience.
“Of course, I’d like to beat Bobby Flay. But my goal is to be a part of something bigger than myself, and this definitely was. I continue to upgrade my goals,” deCastro said.
Looking to upgrade his goals has meant recently interviewing with numerous top-of-the-line eating establishments.
“I’ve really been interviewing all over,” deCastro said. “I’ve been to Colorado, California, Australia, Florida and New York.”
deCastro does have a preferred employer.
“I’d really like to get the chef de cuisine position at Gateway Canyons Spa and Resort in Gateway, Colorado,” deCastro said. “It’s a managerial position where I’d be overseeing five restaurants. I’d be cooking for training purposes, developing menus and recipes. That would be just great.”
But deCastro’s not turning out the television lights, either.
“I think I’ll have other chances with Food Network. I look forward to what’s in the future,” he said.