TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – A Tampa chef made history this year, becoming the first Latina to beat Food Network’s Bobby Flay.
Contestants have been competing against the “Iron Chef” in “Beat Bobby Flay” for 22 seasons.
Husband and wife team Rosana Rivera and Ricardo Castro were invited to take up the challenge. Their episode aired last week.
Rivera and Castro own Xilo Mexican and Kofe at The Hall on Franklin. They also own a national catering company and a high-end food truck.
Before one half of the couple went on to challenge the famous chef, they competed head-to-head on the show to see who would move on.
“We had like 20 minutes to battle against each other and you know, you have to do four plates. Which is what most people don’t understand in those 20 minutes. So it’s a hustle. You gotta work hard,” Castro explained.
The chefs had to utilize a “secret ingredient” – which in this episode, was papaya.
Castro said he and his wife made a similar dish utilizing shrimp but, in the end, it was Rivera who made the final cut.
“I was super excited, I was actually very happy for her, ‘cause I knew she was going to do a great job against Bobby. I think the best part to say here no matter what, Bobby was going down,” he laughed. “And we just really supported each other and it was great because usually that person, when they get beat, they get taken out of the set completely. The producer put me in a microphone and said ‘you’re staying in the audience and you’re going to support her, right next to her.’”
Rivera had a secret weapon moving into her competition against Flay: her empanada recipe.
“The recipe itself represents my culture, something that I grew up with. And it has a lot of components. It has my grandma’s dough recipe, it has my mom’s filling recipe that, of course, I’ve adapted over the years,” she explained. “It’s something Ricardo and I both have collaborated on, so it felt like the right recipe to go against someone of the caliber of Bobby, you know?”
Rivera said the dish was perfect for the show, showcasing Tampa’s Hispanic communities.
During the show, Flay made mistakes and had equipment malfunctions, on top of having a track record of “empanada fails.”
During a blind taste test in front of a panel of judges, Rivera was declared the winner, able to say she “beat Bobby!”
The experience is something she’s incredibly grateful for.
“As a female chef, we don’t get these opportunities very often. As a Latina, we don’t get these opportunities very often. So I think all of that went into perspective at the same time as going through all of those emotions,” Rivera explained.
The couple’s episode was originally supposed to air in October but was delayed until Dec. 26.
Rivera said it was hard to keep her secret.
“Once we were able to release the news, which was in advance of that October airing time, then afterward when we got postponed, everybody was asking, ‘you need to tell us! You need to tell us!’” she said. “And we’re like, ‘no! You have to watch the show’ and wait for the right time. It was super hard, I’m not going to lie.”
Castro is also grateful for the opportunity, saying the couple “think the most” of Chef Flay.
“He’s for real. I mean, the guy is phenomenal, extremely, extremely professional. He knows what he’s doing. He has a different speed, I mean, he can go from 0 to 100 in just seconds,” he said.
“It was amazing to get the opportunity to represent what we have down here. And for people to see, ‘Wow, Tampa.’ Tampa has it!” Rivera said.