Chef Rachel Klein of Miss Rachel’s Pantry will be the latest Philadelphia-area Jewish chef to go into culinary battle against celebrity chef Bobby Flay.
Klein will face off against Flay in a vegan-themed episode of “Beat Bobby Flay,” airing on the Food Network on May 25. In the episode “‘Glaser’-Focused,” comedian Nikki Glaser and chef Michael Voltaggio bring in Klein and chef Troy Gardner, owner of TLC Vegan Kitchen in Dallas, Texas, to best Flay in an all-plant-based challenge.
In the first round of competition, Klein and Gardner will square off to prepare a dish with a mystery ingredient of Flay’s choice in 20 minutes. The winner of that round, selected by three celebrity judges, will challenge Flay to a 45-minute battle to create a dish of the challenger’s choosing.
The owner of Miss Rachel’s Pantry, named after her grandmother Sybil Klein’s Center City luncheonette, Klein hosts five-course set menu dinners from the South Philly restaurant. Her all-vegan menus have previously incorporated plant-based takes on Ashkenazi comfort foods such as matzah ball soup and carrot lox.
But for this episode of “Beat Bobby Flay,” taped in March 2022, showrunners asked Klein to draw from her Philly roots in case she made it to the second round.
“They wanted something iconically Philly, so I made that happen,” Klein said.
Two weeks before her trip to New York to film the episode, Klein prepared for her appearance by timing herself cooking a quintessential Philly dish in a messy kitchen to mimic the conditions of the show.
Preparing for the first round was more complicated: She made a flowchart of what to cook, depending on the secret ingredient revealed at the beginning of the episode. If the ingredient was a root vegetable, she would make a soup. If it was an artichoke, she would make a riff on a griddle cake she’s served at the restaurant.
“Things that I know how to do, I’m going to incorporate them,” Klein said.
“‘Glaser’-Focused” is “Beat Bobby Flay”’s second entirely-vegan episode, following “A Deal to Beat Bobby,” which aired last January. Rodger Holst, sous chef and co-owner of Miss Rachel’s Pantry, touts the episode as good visibility for vegan cuisine and “proves, hopefully, that vegan food is not what it’s often perceived to be, which is boring, very vegetal and all those things.”
“Hopefully, we’ll get some new, interested people to come through,” he said.
In the context of “Beat Bobby Flay,” Flay’s reputation has more notoriety than plant-based cooking. While the chef is depicted as the show’s villain, Klein said that not only was Flay pleasant on the set, but the purpose of “Beat Bobby Flay” is to spotlight fellow chefs under the guise of competition.
“Some of the shows that he’s on, he’s positioned — or his company has positioned him — to be the authority when he comes in, and he’s like, ‘Oh, that thing that you do, I’m going to try to do it better,’” Klein said. “And I almost think it’s a humbling thing what he does. Because, without outwardly saying it, he’s kind of giving people a space to show off what they do.”
Klein will have the chance to show off what she can do on May 25 at 9 p.m. on the Food Network channel and online streaming. Additional showtimes will be on May 26 and 28.
If Klein bests Flay, she will join the ranks of sandwich shop Huda’s Yehuda Sichel and Essen Bakery’s Tova du Plessis, both Philadelphia Jewish chefs who won on “Beat Bobby Flay” in April and December 2021, respectively.