The native of Rotterdam will be featured on “Top Chef Amateurs”

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Rotterdam native Steven DeCarlo will represent the electric city in an episode of Bravo’s “Top Chef Amateurs” which is scheduled to air Thursday night.

The show premiered earlier this month and is modeled after the original “Top Chef” series, presenting the same challenges. In each episode, two amateur chefs compete in an attempt to impress the judges, with the help of two “Top Chef” stars. The winner receives $ 5,000 and “culinary bragging rights,” as host Gail Simmons puts it.

DeCarlo’s love for cooking began at a young age. His family is Italian and he grew up enjoying homemade Italian cuisine.

“I learned to make gravy when I was young; I learned to make stuffed artichokes when I was young, ”DeCarlo said. “I would watch cooking shows when I got home from school to get a feel for what I could do with any food in the kitchen. “

His mother, Michele Webb, had two jobs when he attended Mohonasen High School, so he often cooked dinner for the two of them, taking inspiration from the shows he watched.

“We learned very quickly that I had more cooking talent than mom,” DeCarlo joked.

However, after graduating in 2007, he decided not to go to culinary school and instead dated SUNY Schenectady to pursue liberal arts.

Subsequently, he attended Paul Mitchell School in Schenectady, following in his mother’s footsteps by becoming a hairdresser. He moved to New York to pursue an apprenticeship and then a job and has since worked in salons there.

Yet cooking has remained an important part of his life.

“Cooking is not a boring task for me. It brings me joy, it calms me down at the end of a busy day and it’s almost like meditation for me, ”said DeCarlo.

He usually cooks after returning from work and tries to prepare his meals as much as possible.

“I think because of having little time to cook after a long day of work in New York and the commute. . . I had to cook quickly, but I had to cook really well, ”said DeCarlo.

DeCarlo usually brought home cooked meals to work and his coworkers would always ask him which restaurant he ordered from. “[I’d say] “I did this last night on my way home from work so I could have a delicious lunch today,” and they’ve always been surprised by that, ”DeCarlo said. Over the years, he has inspired his colleagues to cook and often shared tips for cooking great meals on a tight schedule.

When the news of “Top Chef Amateurs” was first announced, a friend of Schenectady’s encouraged him to apply and DeCarlo decided to go.

“What really inspired me to apply for the show was that I always wondered how I would have felt if I had gone to cooking school, so this competition helped me to Prove to myself that I can do the two things I love, cut hair and cook food, ”DeCarlo said.

Filming took place in the fall of 2020 in Portland, Oregon, and, strangely enough, it couldn’t have come at a better time. Lounges had largely been closed in New York for several months, so DeCarlo began freelance work with some of his long-time clients.

“I remember in New York we were pretty much on the lockdown side of things in the fall,” DeCarlo said. “Also, for me, getting on a plane during COVID and getting multiple COVID tests and quarantining for filming was a little scary but mostly exciting because I feel like for most of the time. year, I did nothing. “

After arriving in Portland, DeCarlo had to quarantine himself in a hotel room for a week before filming his episode. Another challenge was getting used to being in front of the camera.

“As a hairdresser I’m used to being on the other side of the camera. . . be the one in front of the camera for a while. . . I was really a little nervous, ”said DeCarlo,“ But it was so much fun to see how ‘Top Chef’ works; to be really there in person to see how the show makes the magic happen and how the cooking, how fast it really is and how everything goes in the blink of an eye.

He competed against fellow amateur chef Diane Baker of Seattle, Washington, and found that cooking at home under a time constraint helped him prepare for the intense pace of the show.

“When they say ‘the time starts now,’ there’s no pause in between, there’s no cutoff,” DeCarlo said. “You run into this huge kitchen, you sweat, you panic, you think too much about everything you’re going to do and it was kind of fun cooking in a kitchen you’ve never been to before, that’s great. and you don’t know where anything is.

Fortunately, he had some help from Joe Flamm, a “Top Chef” winner, who he was paired with for the competition.

“They were there for all kinds of questions we had along the way. Food is our vision because we’re fans of the show, ”DeCarlo said. “I felt like it was still my take on what I would do at home, but even a little high because I had incredible help.”

Meeting Simmons, a food writer and cookbook author, was also a wonderful experience.

“Just being in person and seeing Gail, being able to talk to her a little bit was so cool. I also read all the food and wine magazines and saw and read her own recipes,” DeCarlo said. . “It was just a cool time.”

DeCarlo also wanted to focus on Schenectady and mentioned his hometown on the show: “We have great food in Schenectady. I don’t want people to not realize it.

The episode of “Top Chef Amateurs” which stars DeCarlo airs Thursday at 9 p.m. on Bravo.

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