Thursday, July 23, 2009
Take That, Bobby Flay
By Matt Andazola
Journal Staff Writer
SAN ANTONIO, N.M. After the judges wiped their lips clean, it was the native New Mexico restaurant owner who triumphed over the New York-based celebrity chef in a battle for green-chile cheeseburger supremacy.
Bobby Olguin, third-generation owner of the Buckhorn Tavern in San Antonio, about 85 miles south of Albuquerque, won over the two judges. Food Network personality Bobby Flay was sent packing on his show, "Throwdown with Bobby Flay."
Jim Thompson/Journal Bobby Olguin and wife Debby, owners of the Buckhorn Tavern in San Antonio, N.M., watch "Throwdown with Bobby Flay" on Wednesday night.
"I thought it was going to be a pretty close one," Olguin said after the episode aired Wednesday night. But winning, he said, "puts the icing on the cake."
Olguin's restaurant was closed for business Wednesday night but open to about 20 friends and family for a viewing party of the show at 7 p.m.
Everyone chuckled as the TV chef removed the seeds from his green chile and added red wine vinegar with olive oil. The room crackled with cheers, clapping and whoops of victory when Olguin was declared the winner.
Flay travels in secret for "Throwdown," pitting himself against unsuspecting master chefs in culinary contests.
When Olguin filmed the episode in May at a chile festival at Bosque del Apache, he thought he was being featured on a special called "Burger Nation." He said he suspected he was being lied to and asked the film crew repeatedly when Flay would be there. Still, he said, he was awed when the New Yorker pulled up in a limousine and issued the challenge.
"I was like, 'You know what? Just being next to this guy and being associated with him is winning to me,' " Olguin said. "But inside, I was like, 'Oh, he's going down.' "
Flay put up a decent fight, said Antonio Perez, a Buckhorn cook who was at the filming.
"I thought he was a real challenger," he said, pointing to Flay's burger, piled with chile peppers from New Mexico and Mexico, gourmet cheese and pickled onions. It was intimidatingly fancy, Perez said.
But Olguin's Buckhorn burger is no pushover: It has earned him the No. 7 spot on Gentlemen's Quarterly's list of the best in America, as well as the No. 3 "Baddest Burger in the Land" on Marlboro.com's Nightlife Flavor Roundup.
In the end, judges Stephanie Walker, chile specialist at New Mexico State University, and Al Lucero, owner of Maria's New Mexican restaurant in Santa Fe, found more to love in the New Mexico powerhouse.
Flay was a gracious loser though, Olguin said, lavishing praise not just on Olguin but also on New Mexican food in general, noting his respect for chile that comes from using peppers to create many of his world-famous dishes.
If you didn't get to see the New Mexico "Throwdown" on Wednesday night, you can catch it again on Food Network at 9 p.m. on Aug. 2.