At first, Alejandro Barrientos thought it was all a joke.
It was late 2018 and the longtime chef and owner of Curb Side Bistro, located at 3816 Andrews Highway in Odessa, got a message on Instagram.
It was a vague recruiting message from a production company with the Food Network’s show Beat Bobby Flay.
The email asked Barrientos about the possibility of appearing on the show and to message back for more information.
Barrientos, like most people in that situation, was a little skeptical.
“I couldn’t believe it,” he said. “I didn’t know if we should trust that person because you hear stories about scams and everything like that. I was hesitant but decided that as long as I didn’t give them any personal info, we had nothing to lose.”
It turned out to be the real deal and now, almost three years later, the Odessan will be featured on a new episode of Beat Bobby Flay, which is scheduled to air at 7 p.m. April 22.
Bobby Flay is a famous celebrity chef and restaurateur.
He is the owner and executive chef of several restaurants including Mesa Grill in Las Vegas, Bar Americain in New York and Bobby Flay Steak in Atlantic City, just to name a few.
He’s hosted several Food Network television programs and has been a guest on a number of specials as well on the network.
Beat Bobby Flay, features various chefs competing against him with numerous celebrity appearances and is taped in front of a live audience.
The format of the show works like this: two contestants cook for 20 minutes against each other using an ingredient chosen by Flay. The guests then decide who cooked the better dish and faces Flay in the second round.
Barrientos will be competing alongside fellow chef Andrew Bent.
The winning contestant then chooses a dish for both the contestant and Flay to cook in the second round which lasts for 45 minutes.
Who becomes the winner is determined by three judges in a blind taste test.
The judges for Barrientos’ episode are Justin Bazdarich, Ivy Stark and Ariel Fox.
Because of a nondisclosure agreement Barrientos has signed, he is limited to what he can talk about before the show airs including if he won or not.
However, despite the long timeline between getting the Instagram message to this year, Barrientos is still in disbelief that he actually got to be on the show.
“It is crazy,” Barrientos said. “Even when I was there, I still couldn’t believe it. It’s just something that I will always remember.”
For him, it’s a dream come true, having grown up watching different cooking shows on TV.
“I remember growing up watching cooking shows from PBS to the Food Network,” Barrientos said. “Back in the day, the Food Network wasn’t as popular as it is now. People now, when they can’t sleep or binge watch, even if they don’t like to cook, they’ll watch Diners and Dives or The Chew or any other shows. It’s become more mainstream.”
However, it wasn’t an overnight process.
After receiving the message, it was a number of months before Barrientos was able to fly to New York City to be on the show.
Even after the message, he wasn’t sure if they would still select him and he had to go through a lengthy application process.
“I sent them pictures and a resume,” Barrientos said. “It was like I was applying for a job. They needed a lot of information.”
It wasn’t until April, 2019 when Barrientos and his wife, Stephanie Barrientos, were on vacation, celebrating his birthday in Las Vegas when he received a call telling him that he had been selected.
“I don’t know if you’ve ever been to Las Vegas, but in the casinos, your phone gets no signal whatsoever,” Barrientos said. “My phone started ringing and it was a production company calling me and telling me that I had been selected and congratulating me. I couldn’t believe it.”
October, 2019 was when Barrientos was able to go to the Big Apple for the show’s taping and because of the non-disclosure agreement, he wasn’t allowed to tell anybody.
“It was a roller coaster of emotions,” Barrientos said. “The only person I could tell was my wife. We went to New York for a few days and we made up excuses about why we were going.”
He said the experience he got in New York was amazing.
“Everybody there was nice,” Barrientos said. “New York has a bad rap of being tough or people being rude but everyone there was kind. The production company was great. It was so crazy because they treat you like a celebrity. They have an assistant come help you. They put us in a green room with snacks and they ask if you need anything.”
Being able to compete against Flay, who ranks as one of his favorite chefs, was something Barrientos will never forget.
“As a young culinarian here, you have some cooking heroes,” Barrientos said. “For me, Bobby Flay was one of the ones that I have ranked high up there just because he was one of the first American chefs to actually go on (Iron Chef) in Asia. He was one of the first American chefs to go on there and he won. It was a huge thing and he beat them. To me, it was awesome. He’s just like me. I can make it up there and cook. It was one of the goals to meet him and cook with him because he’s one of my heroes.”
After the episode was taped came a lengthy waiting period. Barrientos wasn’t sure when the episode would air.
Then came the uncertainties in a pandemic-stricken 2020 in which numerous shows were put on hold due to social distancing and other restrictions.
As the months went by, Barrientos became more and more doubtful that his episode would air.
“It’s a good thing that I didn’t tell anybody,” Barrientos said. “You wouldn’t want to tell everybody that you were on Beat Bobby Flay and then it doesn’t air. It was in the back of my mind. We were doing all types of things and COVID put industries on the back of their heads.”
“I would see the seasons and go down and check because it lists which chefs are on there and would constantly check our emails over it because you get a press release when it is going to air,” Barrientos said. “We didn’t have anything. I was feeling a little bit depressed. I was telling my wife that I had a bad feeling but I was going to shake it off and that it was nothing.”
Then, two weeks, after waking up and getting ready for work, he had a feeling that something good was going to happen.
“That morning, I woke up and prayed and knew that it was going to be a great day,” Barrientos said.
It turns out, he was right to be optimistic as he soon got word from his wife about his episode.
“By the time I got to work, I had three missed calls from my wife. I thought something bad happened but she said ‘We got it! We got it! Look at the email!’ and it was the press release saying that we were going to be on and congratulation.”
With the exposure expected to come, Barrientos is happy for the publicity that the episode of Beat Bobby Flay can do for Curb Side Bistro.
He’s also ecstatic about representing the Permian Basin.
“It puts the spotlight that someone from West Texas can actually make it to the Food Network,” Barrientos said. “I have a lot of friends who are trying to go into the food business and I want them to see that hey, this is how I did it. I can do it. I can maybe go on more shows. I want it to be a stepping stone for all the culinarians here in West Texas.”