DeLand chef and Stetson University professor Hari Pulapaka made his Food Network debut May 4. While he didn’t take home a big victory, Pulapaka enjoyed the experience.
Even though he filmed his TV appearance on Food Network’s Beat Bobby Flay in March 2022, he had to keep it under wraps until just before the episode aired May 4.
Beat Bobby Flay pits two chefs against each other in a challenge to determine who will go on to face celebrity chef Bobby Flay in a cooking contest. The victor comes away with some serious bragging rights.
DeLandites and others tuned in May 4 to see if Pulapaka had the chance to cook against Flay, with many cheering their hometown chef on social media.
Ultimately, Pulapaka didn’t advance to the second round of the show’s competition. Judges selected chef Denis Radovic’s dish with the required ingredient — a baguette — over Pulapaka’s.
While he was disappointed he didn’t advance further in the show, Pulapaka enjoyed the experience of flying out to New York and cooking in a well-stocked kitchen for a large audience.
“For me, the primary goal was to promote food and my own agenda when it comes to food and my own business,” Pulapaka said. “And it helps when you have a large audience, and the impetus for me was to have a larger audience.”
Pulapaka’s agenda? Promoting food system advocacy, food waste reduction, fighting against unhealthy food and malnutrition and fighting against discrimination and inequity in the food industry.
“These are just human values to me,” he said, “but I was always interested in speaking about those through the lens of food.”
And even though Pulapaka didn’t take home a big victory, the magic of the silver screen means people could be seeing his face and hearing his story for years to come.
“You could be on an airplane one day and turn on the Food Network and see this episode,” Pulapaka said.
With a TV appearance under his belt, Pulapaka is back to doing what he loves — hosting intimate dining experiences through his company, the Global Cooking School.
“I’m just happy to be cooking a lot and doing philanthropy and advocacy with my cooking,” he said. “Maybe this episode will lead to other things.”
The chef and doctor of mathematics is always making connections like that. Between advocacy and cooking, between TV and his goals of creating a more equitable world, and even between food and math.
While the connection might seem obvious — calculating your measurements, for one — Pulapaka says it goes deeper than that for him.
“When I think of mathematics, to me, it’s a way to compartmentalize thoughts,” he explained. “That happens in the kitchen.”
Because, in the kitchen, Pulapaka is layering complex flavor profiles and putting together a story with his food. All of that, he said, requires a tight, mathematical logic.
“That’s just how my brain works,” he said.