WILLIAMSTOWN — Local chef Nicholas Moulton took a trip to Flavortown — and he won big.
On Wednesday, April 3, viewers tuned in to see chef Moulton of Mezze Bistro + Bar in Williamstown crowned the winner of the "Budget Bonanza" episode of Food Network`s "Guy's Grocery Games," making him a two-time champion of the program.
While these episodes aired recently, the process started months ago. After being contacted by a casting agent, followed by a long casting process, Moulton, head chef of Mezze since 2014, was selected to compete. Then, things began to move quickly, he said.
He traveled to Northern California last fall to record two episodes all while keeping his game show glory under wraps until recently. He credits his team at Mezze for allowing him the ability to step away to take advantage of opportunities such as this.
"I spend a lot of time behind the line and I'm thankful to have a team where I can work on projects like this," he said.
Hosted by Guy Fieri — chef, restaurateur, and host of "Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives" — "Guy's Grocery Games" pits chefs against each other as they create dishes made with ingredients shopped for at the Flavortown Market, all in 30 minutes. A panel of judges evaluates and votes on the winning dish. After three rounds, the chef with the winning dish competes against the clock for a chance at $20,000 in the final "Shopping Spree" round.
In Moulton's first appearance on the episode "5 Dollar Dishes," which aired on March 14, Moulton played to win, impressing judges with vegetable forward, price conscious dishes packed with flavor such as crispy Brussels sprouts with roasted mushrooms, sweet corn puree and a poached egg; pasta primavera with broccoli stem pesto and a Moroccan-inspired chickpea stew with shrimp and mahi mahi. After winning all three rounds, Moulton competed against the clock for a chance to win $20,000. He was able to take home $16,000 and was dubbed "Veggie King" by Fieri. Fieri teased Moulton about how to get to the competition, he had to take his first airplane ride. His response was a testament to the Berkshires: "I've never been on an airplane, because everything I need I can get locally right at home."
In his second appearance, "Big Budget Bonanza," Moulton was brought back along with three budget episode winners in the ultimate budget showdown for another chance at $20,000. Contestants were tasked with making a breakfast, lunch and dinner for four people with a total budget of $60. Moulton won his first round with a "baller breakfast" of pomegranate and pistachio French toast with roasted delicata squash and apple yogurt. Rounds two and three involved shrinking budgets, craftier challenges and more. In the end, he came out on top once again and with a second chance at the "Shopping Spree" round — Moulton took home the whole $20,000.
Moulton's familiarity with ingredient-focused dishes is what set him apart from his competitors, he said. It's what he's used to doing in his restaurant. He credits his seasonal and vegetable-focused philosophy at Mezze as an edge in the competition.
Moulton is used to thinking on his feet and creating ingredient-forward dishes when writing menus.
"I'm not a vegetarian by any means, but my food is very vegetable focused, being we're from an area so rich in agriculture it's what we do," he said.
As for preparing for the competition?
"You can't really plan what you do." Moulton said. "You have to completely blank out everything because you don't know what they're going to ask you to do. So I did that, but I stuck to my guns, saying 'I'm going to focus on what I do at home.'"
While he enjoyed competing, Moulton's ultimate goals were family focused.
"I went out there to have fun, and do something cool for my kids to see and help put the Berkshires on the map," he said. What's next for Moulton? He was mum on the details, but for now, it was taking his family on that long deserved vacation.
To watch both episodes, check out Amazon Videos or YouTube. Follow chef Moulton on Instagram at @mezzenm and follow Mezze Bistro + Bar at @mezzebistro to see what's next.