Backup plan gives Edward Roszak an edge in seafood cooking competition

By Douglas McCulloch | Jul 27, 2017
Photo by: Douglas McCulloch Edward Roszak finishes up one of his dishes.

Chef Edward Roszak went into a seafood cooking competition with an open mind, as he had no idea what he would actually be cooking.

The head chef at Mattapoisett’s How on Earth and fellow chef Mark Swierkowski brainstormed dish ideas a day before the New Bedford Seafood Throwdown on July 27. The pair came up with several ideas, which came in handy as they had to quickly pivot when the mystery ingredient of hake was revealed, along with rainy weather during the competition.

“We had a plan A and a plan B,” Roszak explained. “Plan A was to do something with a little bit more Spanish flavor, and plan B was this idea. When we saw the hake we flipped to plan B, especially with the rain because it was a little more brothy and more warm.”

He served his hake dredged in garbanzo, served in a sautée of sunburst tomatoes, green beans, zucchini squash and flavorings he picked up at the New Bedford Farmers Market. As the competition began, he was given a strict $25 budget to secure ingredients to go along with the hake and the three he was allowed to bring with him.

By a narrow margin, Roszak’s dish won him the approval of the judges, defeating chef Joe Rego, owner of Fairhaven’s Pasta House and Dartmouth’s Cask and Pig.

When he realized he’d be facing Rego, who has winning appearances on Food Network shows Chopped and Cutthroat Kitchen on his resume, Roszak wasn’t worried.

“I’ve spent my entire life cooking,” Roszak said. “I started at 13, and I’ve cooked in Los Angeles, I’ve cooked in Boston.”

For his dish, Rego prepared a seafood gumbo with a little local flavor using linguica. When the mystery fish was revealed to be hake, that didn’t change Rego’s plan at all.

He brought linguica, gumbo spice, and okra to follow through on his vision with him to the seafood throwdown, and purchased needed vegetables and spices at farmer’s market. But with a lack of ingredients, Rego had to come up with some creative solutions when he ran into problems.

“I had to improvise,” Rego said. “When you make gumbo, you have to use butter and flour to make the roux, so it was kind of hard to thicken the soup.”

Using potatoes he purchased at the farmer's market, he boiled them with fish stock to help thicken the gumbo, and used remaining potatoes in the place of rice to serve it with.

The seafood throwdown was held at Custom House Square in New Bedford, organized by several local and national fisheries organizations to raise awareness of the New Bedford fishing industry.



Edward Roszak works on his dish during the competition. (Photo by: Douglas McCulloch)
The judges prepare to try Roszak's dish. (Photo by: Douglas McCulloch)
Joe Rego and Edward Roszak work during the seafood throwdown. (Photo by: Douglas McCulloch)
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