It’s been more than three years since you made it to the Season 7 finale of Food Network Star. What have those three years been like?
Food Network Star was almost like schooling. Then you go off on your own and make that decision whether you’re gonna better yourself as a chef, pursue the TV thing, or a little of both.
It’s been a long road. After Food Network Star, nothing really happened [in TV] for two years. And in that time, you can either give up or continue. And I made the choice to continue. There were lots of sacrifices. I work in the day [as regional corporate executive chef for U.S Foods]. I’ve got a restaurant at night, Café V in Anthem. I’m a father. And, while I should be sleeping, I’m doing food television.
You’re co-hosting Late Night Chef Fight, inspired by Jolene Mannina’s Back of House Brawl cooking competitions at Tommy Rocker’s. How does it feel to finally have your own show on the air?
It feels amazing to get to this point. This is just the beginning. If you do pretty good at this food TV thing, other opportunities come about. The more things like this we do, the more exposure we get. So I feel good.
I don’t think I’ve ever seen you at one of the brawls. Did you ever attend?
Unfortunately, you don’t really see many pictures of me out there at a party or a club or a gathering with a drink in my hand like I would love to. I kind of bloomed a little later in life. Right now I’m all work and no play. At 1 a.m. on a Saturday night—that’s one of the nights I have my little daughter out of two nights a week—it would be very difficult to bring her to the Back of House Brawl, even though she would love to go.
But I was there in spirit. Whenever I did local appearances, I made sure I’d get onstage and thank Jolene and [local chef] Christian Dolias for really taking the street culinary scene and [blowing it up] and believing in it—sticking together and telling every other city, “Who do you think you are? Look what we’re doing over here!”
What does this show mean for Las Vegas?
Here’s what I really love about this show: You’ve got something going on in Las Vegas that’s not going on anywhere else. You take these bad-to-the-bone chefs who pretty much hang it up at the end of the night and battle in a parking lot after they’ve put in their dues for the week—because it always happens at the end of the [restaurant work] week. This show is highlighting those hard-working guys who don’t have the notoriety of the Gordon Ramsays and the Robert Irvines and the Bobby Flays. It’s showing that there really is a strong, tight culinary scene in Las Vegas. And even though these guys are battling each other, at the end of the day they can crack a brew together and compliment each other.
It’s funny, in the first episode I was wondering how they were gonna do it. Were they gonna compete more? Were they gonna be friends more? And I think they had the perfect balance of peace and harmony and battling in their little fight that they had.
You know most of these chefs. Were you rooting for anybody at any point?
It’s kind of like this: You have your football team. But when you watch Monday Night Football and your team’s not playing, you just want to see a good game. And I have so much respect for all these chefs that I just wanted to see them be their best and bring everything that they’ve learned in this Las Vegas culinary scene and in their careers. It’s their day to highlight who they are and what they can do, and represent Vegas—something I love to do.
Have you ever cooked on a food truck?
Yes. I’m proud to say that when we were filming Food Network Star, I won the Tyler Florence food truck face-off. That was actually the only week that I won. It was the week that I decided not to dress the way they wanted me to dress, but the way I wanted to dress. No sweater vest. I went Vic-style on the wardrobe. Bobby Flay got a little mad at me. And that was the week I won. What does that tell you?
You’re a pretty buff guy. But your co-host Laila Ali is a former pro boxer, and the daughter of Muhammad Ali. Could you take her in the ring?
Hell no! [laughs] Exclamation point! Exclamation point! Exclamation point!
Late Nite Chef Fight
Airs at 11 p.m. Saturdays on FYI through Jan. 17.