After initially applying for “Chopped,” the 29-year-old Haverhill native and executive chef at Seaglass Restaurant in Salisbury was instead selected for Food Network’s “Extreme Chef,” in which contestants battle the elements and each other in extreme locations, scavenging for cooking materials. On last week’s Season 2 premiere, Brandolini won the first cooking challenge.
‘A fish is a fish, you know how to work with it. If you wanted to have any sort of advantage, you had to be physically in shape. . . . That’s part of the advantage I had.’
“Extreme Chef” airs Thursdays at 10 p.m. on Food Network.
Q. What made you a good fit for this show?
A. My strengths have always been being able to sort of come up with something fantastic or great just using whatever’s at my hands. Our restaurant, we have a farm in Newburyport, and they didn’t really plant the farm based on my menu, so a giant box truck would just show up daily and it would be up to me, on a whim, to just draw up the menu for the day based on what the truck would show up with. And it could be anything. But I think everything in the kitchen sort of prepares you for [the show] because there’s always something thrown at you, just like in these challenges, where they throw random ingredients at you in a random situation. That’s kind of how my life is at the restaurant.
Q. You say that you were at somewhat of a disadvantage because you had never really left Boston before filming this show, whereas other contestants had cooked all over the world. What advantages did you have?
A. I certainly had a little bit of an edge working with seafood, working on the coast all these years. But again, we’re limited to the few items we have over here and obviously there are some exotic seafood items that I had never seen elsewhere. But a fish is a fish, you know how to work with it. If you wanted to have any sort of advantage, you had to be physically in shape. There’s a lot of running around, quite honestly a lot of physical work, carrying heavy stuff, objects to create your makeshift kitchen, and if you want the good ingredients or good equipment that you find, then you have to go through many obstacles, whether it be running, climbing, possibly swimming. So you definitely had to be in shape for this and that’s part of the advantage I had, because that’s a huge part of my life. I still play ice hockey on a weekly basis and go to the gym five times a week. There were a couple friends on the show during the challenges that were hoping I would slow down for them a little bit.
Q. As a chef, how do you handle ingredients you’ve never worked with?
A. You more or less just have to dive right into it, taste it, figure out the characteristics, the texture, and how it’s going to balance out in your dish, and just make it happen. That’s the only way to do it.
Q. Where do you see your career headed after the show?
A. The answer to this question changes every day for me because I am 29, single, and undecided. So I love Boston, but it was a big tease when I was on the West Coast, it was beautiful out there, so I think I’d like to do a bit of traveling before I land at my next home, which I feel like may be closer to the heart of the city instead of the North Shore. I see myself landing in a spot that’s my concept, very new American sort of food, but not before I hopefully do a bit more traveling, educate myself, and gain some exposure from this show and find some investors. I do see myself probably staying true to Boston but hopefully building a name for myself further out, and then hopefully having my own concept somewhere around the Cambridge/Boston area.