Just in time for the ultimate foodie holiday, we got to know a local chef who can handle the heat of a cooking competition.
Lambert Givens is the Executive Chef of Hunter’s Kitchen and Bar, and he brought his competitive nature + a family recipe to the studios of the Food Network’s show “Beat Bobby Flay.” Spoiler alert: the Southie chef won.
Read on for 10 questions with this up-and-coming chef, including his favorite dishes and which local chefs he’s watching.
What is your favorite thing to eat on Thanksgiving?
I’m gonna have to say all the sides. There’s just something about the mashed potatoes with that fresh turkey gravy, and then the stuffing, and the mac and cheese. I’m not really a huge fan of the turkey, but I will go for the sides and the desserts. Thanksgiving desserts are like no other desserts. My favorites are pumpkin pie, sweet potato pie, and I’m a big cheesecake guy.
Is there a local dish that you crave and rave about?
Yeah, I really enjoy the French Onion Soup at Lincoln Tavern. I crave it all the time.
And, it’s kind of off topic, but I’ve been craving lasagna and I haven’t been able to find a spot that has lasagna. I haven’t made it over to the North End to try some out.
Is there a secret menu item at Hunter’s that you want people to know about?
Actually, it’s not a secret but an underrated menu item is our chicken and dumplings, they are so delicious. It’s so homey.
I think that it’s one of the things that people don’t actually don’t know about and how delicious it is. As much as I love the gumbo, my alternative is definitely the chicken and dumplings. It’s a dish that brings you back home, sitting by a fire.
Is there anyone locally that you’re watching to see what they do?
There is this one spot in Somerville called La Brasa. I do really enjoy the dishes there. I think they do a great job.
What was being on “Beat Bobby Flay” like for you? How did you get involved to make it onto the show?
So it started out when I was catching a lot of traction on social media. I received an email from their production company, and I was kind of like “woah, what’s going on here?” Things were getting really crazy — we were opening a new restaurant and so we were very busy. It was a lot and I was spending a lot of my time in Hunter’s. And I had to ask myself, “oh my god, do I even have time for this?”
We spoke with our marketing team and ownership and decided this is a once in a lifetime deal. We ended up reaching back out to the production team and they let us know that there was an opportunity to be on the Bobby Flay show and that they were interested in me trying.
We put up a couple of dishes that would go up against Bobby Flay, then had a couple of interviews, and ended up making the finals. We chose the gumbo, which is a family recipe of mine, and it’s evolved over the years. Then they said see you in two weeks. I was thinking oh, holy smokes.
It’s a very long day of filming depending on which episode that you’re doing and what part of the day you’re doing. I was there at 5:30 a.m. and they explained all the rules to you. Then they get you ready — they talk about wardrobes and then they do your makeup, and they do a good job preparing you. The next thing you know, you’re getting ready and they bring you on stage and it’s just a thrilling sensation. As a competitive guy, it’s like that pregame warm up. Once I actually stepped down to the stage with the kitchen I just felt comfortable in the space.
I was very happy to do that and that nervousness came over me again, just knowing that you’re going up against Bobby Flay.
You know, not a lot of people can beat Bobby. So to be able to go up against him, at his house and he’s done this 100 times. He’s got the advantage. In my head, I knew this recipe and that it was going to be tough because Bobby’s had gumbo on the menu at many of his restaurants.
And then, there’s been me telling myself all I have to do is stick to the recipe and just stay on track. I couldn’t lose focus on what I needed to do. I stuck to it and then came out victorious. It was amazing.
If you could do a local version of “Beat Bobby Flay,” is there a local chef that you want to compete against?
I would love to go up against the other chefs in my group (think: Capo and Lincoln Tavern). We have an ongoing internal competition. There’s a competitiveness about each other and we talked about who has the best restaurant, so I would love to go up against some of the other chefs in our group.
There are also some of the other chefs that come to mind that have been on the competition shows, like Jason Santos, Tatiana Rosana, and Tiffani Faison.
What is something that every new Bostonian should know about the city?
It’s a big sports city. Honestly, it’s probably one of the greatest sports cities in the world. The people of Boston are really serious about their teams. The Celtics, Bruins, Patriots, Red Sox — it’s not like they’re any run of the mill teams.
If you’re taking someone on a tour of Boston, where are the three places you’re going?
Definitely the North End. I want to say the Southie area because I work in this area. I think about this environment and to see what it has come to be and where it is now. I also like a harbor cruise, that’s pretty fun. And, the Cape is also top tier.
If you could describe Boston’s personality in three words. What are those three words?
Electric, competitive, and tough.
Is there an improvement that you would like to see Boston make?
I think this is more of a personal thing — there should be a way of connecting chefs to each other. It’s hard with how the shifts are and chefs get so busy in our own restaurants. I feel like there are a lot of chefs that are out there that I really don’t know.
I’m pretty sure we’re all going through the same things. Whether it be shortage of employees or cost of goods going up. I think being able to have resources to support one another like a mentor, or just having each other to be able to chat with.