July 18, 2024


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Food Network Chopped to feature Chapel Hill NC chef Jackson

Chapel Hill chef Dan Jackson is the latest Triangle culinary star to appear on the Food Network.

Jackson, who is the executive chef of the new Chapel Hill Italian restaurant Osteria Georgi, will compete on “Chopped” Tuesday, June 15 at 9 p.m.

“I always wanted to do one of the cooking competitions,” Jackson said. “The reason I got into cooking was more the competition of it, the athleticism of it. You have to move well behind the line and think on the fly as a line cook. You have to use your movements and know what pan to grab and what needs to happen.”

“Chopped,” the long-running Food Network culinary competition hosted by Ted Allen, features four chefs cooking surprise ingredients from a basket, with the worst dish in each round sending one chef home.

Jackson spent most of his cooking career in New York, including stints in Danny Meyer’s restaurant group and two years at Eleven Madison Park, one of the top kitchens in the world. The competitive nature of fine dining appealed to Jackson, he said, and that working at Eleven Madison Park was like being on a Chicago Bulls team led by Michael Jordan.

“It taught me to play up to that level,” Jackson said of working for famed chef Daniel Humm. “That experience helped me in my career, showing me how hard you have to work in this industry to be successful. Just like any kind of sports competition, if you want to be the best, you have to beat the best.”

Hit by the pandemic

“Chopped” producers first reached out to Jackson in January 2020. He filmed a biography video for the show and prepared to compete in March. Then the world fell apart and the COVID-19 pandemic ground television production and the restaurant industry to a halt.

Jackson was later laid off, and he and his wife moved back to his home state of North Carolina at the end of the summer.

Jackson, a Chapel Hill native, was hired to helm Osteria Georgia, the newest restaurant from prolific Triangle restaurateur Giorgios Bakatsias. It opened in the spring at 201 S. Elliott Road, in Chapel Hill.

But before then, “Chopped” reached out to Jackson last fall. He drove through the mountains to Knoxville, Tenn., where his episode was filmed in November. The episode has a futuristic theme, Jackson said, imagining dishes from the year 3000.

A 9 p.m. watch party for Jackson’s “Chopped” episode will be held at The Casual Pint, at 201 Elliott Road, next door to Osteria Georgi.

Without any spoilers, Jackson said he is at peace with his performance.

“I’ve always wanted to prove myself to the people I grew up with in the industry,” said Jackson, who attended the prestigious Culinary Institute of America. “That’s not to say one competition defines you, but I’ve always wanted to win and didn’t like to lose.”

Following Jackson’s appearance on Chopped, the restaurant will feature one of his dishes from the episode starting June 16.

This will be a double dose of Triangle chefs on the national food scene, following pitmaster Chris Prieto’s appearance on “BBQ Brawl,” a new barbecue competition show, also on Food Network.

The first episode, a 90-minute special, airs Monday, June 14 at 9 p.m. on the Food Network.

Jackson joins Pizzeria Toro chef de cuisine Marla Thurman as Triangle chefs to appear on “Chopped” in recent years. Thurman’s episode aired in February 2020, ending with her taking the crown.

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Drew Jackson writes about restaurants and dining for The News & Observer and The Herald-Sun, covering the food scene in the Triangle and North Carolina.