Saturday, July 16, 2011

Road To "Chopped" Championship: The Wayne B Lyons Story

Every so often you read something or come across someone on television that really makes an impression on you. One of my favorite shows is Chopped . What I like about "Chopped" is multifaceted: a). Ted Allen is a great gameshow host! b). celebrity chef judges are awesome! c). the wide variety of chef's who are challenged.

In the world of mathematics there is something called "Game Theory" and Chopped proves this theory correct.

When a player/contestant tries to choose the "best" strategy among a multitude of options, that player may compare two strategies A and B to see which one is better.

There are many strategies but here are 2 possibilities:

B strictly dominates A: choosing B always gives a better outcome than choosing A, no matter what the other player(s) do.
B weakly dominates A: There is at least one set of opponents' action for which B is superior, and all other sets of opponents' actions give B at least the same payoff as A.

Clearly, I could write a thesis on Chopped and the nuance, analogy and juxtapositions of life.

The other day I was watching Chopped and the episode was called, "Saying Sayonara". I have Chopped DVR'd so I never miss an episode. Often, I'll make dinner for my girlfriend and we'll watch an episode together. The days of gathering around the table for the CBS Evening News are long gone in this household.

In every episode, there is a brief segment in the opening of the show on each of the four competing chefs and this was my first introduction to meeting Chef Wayne B Lyons.

Before I go any further there is one thing I have to admit...I am a food show junkie and Chopped is my food show drug of choice, its sad but true. I've watched every episode of Chopped from day one and now we're into Season 7. Problem is that the show just keeps getting better and they continue to find the best and brightest food talent in the US and abroad.

In this particular episode, Chef Wayne B. Lyons who is the chef/owner of Soul Flavors was not what I consider a favorite but I was so wrong in his dynamic use of Game Theory in his approach to his opponents and the use of the mystery ingredients.

Through out the episode, Chef Wayne continued to not only keep me inspired through his cooking but I was moved by his overall message.

Recently, I had a chance to speak with Wayne B. Lyons on the phone about how he got from successful architect to recovering addict to Head Chef/Owner of a successful restaurant and now Chopped Champion of one of the hottest shows on The Food Network.

Initially, when putting this together, I thought that I might go word for word and let the story come out of the transcription of our conversation but I think the story is in the journey of how Chef Wayne inspired me so much as to reach out and make contact. Often, we come across someone we may never see and having just a short conversation can have a positive impact on your life.

We exchanged a couple text messages over several days and finally we had a chance to talk on the phone. I was surprised at how open and honest he was about his transformation from architecture to Chef/Owner. One thing I can say is that he has creativity is his blood.

If you want to see what I'm talking about, take a look at some of the signature dishes at Soul Flavors.

Pan roasted scallops served with mixed field greens and broiled grapefruit

Cold Corn Soup

Seafood gumbo

Mango ice cream with ginger pecan graham crisp

When was the last time you put yourself in a vulnerable position for someone to judge you on your merit? How about when was the last time you said, "I'm going to see this project through regardless of the outcome"?

We live in a world of constant transformation and the most successful people are the ones who are able to transcend the difficult times and surpass even their own expectations.

Chef Wayne B Lyons, you really inspired me when I saw your performance on Chopped and I'm sure you inspired millions of people on the show and from what your dishes look like, you inspire people through your food everyday.

Congratulations on an incredible win on Chopped and thank you for making time for me to put this story together.

If you're ever in the Jersey City area check out Soul Flavors and tell em Mike sent you... ;-)

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