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Chef Earl Reynolds lassoes Bobby Flay with Okonomiyaki dish

by KELSEY EVANS
Whitefish Pilot | July 9, 2024 12:00 PM

Whitefish chef Earl Reynolds literally galloped onto the cooking stage of Beat Bobby Flay before going on to win both rounds of the reality TV competition, effectively lassoing a win against the celebrity chef.  

“I had to be at the studio at 5:30 in the morning,” explained Reynolds, who is head chef at Herb & Omni in downtown Whitefish. “I was slamming Red Bull and didn’t know what I would do until about 30 seconds before walking out there.

“It was funny because I named the horse I rode in on Sinbad, one of my childhood horses. So, Sinbad got an unexpected cameo on the show.”

He flew to New York City in April 2023 to film “Say What?,” season 36, episode 4 of Food Network’s show, Beat Bobby Flay, and has had to keep the victory hushed for all this time. 

“The stagers wanted me to do something related to snowboarding,” he said. “They first asked me if I could bring my snowboard. And I was like absolutely not, not unless I’m on a mountain. And then they wanted me to wear my goggles, and I was like nope.”

Before Reynolds could take on Flay, he had to take on Jim Armstrong of Brooklyn, New York, in the first 20-minute round of the show. 

For round one, Reynolds made pork and shrimp shumai with ginger broth, crispy wontons and an herb salad. Shumai are Chinese dumplings.  

“I made Shumai for my wife and I’s first date,” Reynolds said on the show. 

After winning the first round, Reynolds was ready for round two. “Bobby Flay is the entree and I’m ready to eat,” he said on the show. 

This time, Reynolds got to choose the dish: “Okonomiyaki!” he announced. 

Okonomiyaki is a Japanese-style pancake with shredded cabbage that can be topped with many kinds of meats and sauces. It's a blank canvas and literally means “as you like it.” 

Reynolds, who has long been drawn to Japanese cuisine, said on the show that he chose Okonomiyaki because he figured Flay wasn’t familiar with it. 

Reynolds was right. 

“I’ve never made it,” Flay said on the show. 

Reynolds got familiar with the dish when he had it on his winter 2023 menu at Stone Hill Kitchen in Bigfork. Reynolds said that, like Flay, most people weren’t familiar with the dish. 

“But people would order it once they saw it out in the dining room,” Reynolds said.

Flay’s dish – Okonomiyaki with bacon and shiitake mushrooms – ultimately fell short of Reynold’s Okonomiyaki with tempura crab and morel mushrooms.

Reynolds, a James Beard award nominee in 2023, can now add beating a celebrity chef to his accolades.  

“It was hard to keep the win a secret all this time, especially in this little ski town of ours,” Reynolds said.  

“It was super exciting, the whole production team made it fun. It was a total positive experience and a true honor.”