A Rising Star on H Street

Granville Chef’s Road to Success

Posted April 17, 2009 at 5:41pm

Teddy Folkman’s moules frites are so delicious that not only do they cause a two-hour wait on weekends, but they’ve also landed the Granville Moore’s chef several moments of television fame.

Last year, famed chef Bobby Flay came to town to challenge Folkman to a cook-off on his Food Network show, “Throwdown with Bobby Flay.— Now, 33-year-old Folkman has been cast in “The Next Food Network Star,— where he will compete for his own TV program. (The new season will begin June 7.)

“I love cooking, entertaining and teaching,— says Folkman, who co-owns the H Street Northeast restaurant. “My ultimate goal is where I can teach people what I do and they can learn from me. They can learn tricks that they might not think of and to think like a chef.—

Folkman, who has cooked at such area restaurants as Vermillion and Clyde’s of Georgetown, has been in the kitchen at Granville Moore’s — named for the doctor who used to practice in the same building — for just more than a year and a half. Co-owner Joe Englert, the mastermind behind many of the bars on H Street, credits Folkman with transforming Granville from a little-known establishment to one of the main draws in the neighborhood.

“Teddy is the anti-chef: no cursing, no dressing down of employees, present in the kitchen actually cooking,— Englert wrote in an e-mail. “Without a doubt, Teddy is the reason why Granville Moore has become such a sensation. I am so glad to say that sometimes nice guys finish first.—

Now the question is whether Folkman will finish first on “The Next Food Network Star,— the finale of which will be taped at the end of the month. Folkman’s first brush with the network came last year when he appeared on “Throwdown.—

The channel approached the restaurant about a fake show called “America Eats: Inside the Beltway,— as a cover for “Throwdown.— Cameras trailed Folkman as he cooked at Granville Moore’s, bought mussels at a local market and oversaw the bustle of the restaurant during dinner service. The taping culminated in a party at a nearby H Street bar, the Argonaut, where Flay surprised an awestruck Folkman and challenged him to a cook-off. The two prepared moules frites, and judges declared Folkman the winner after tasting his blue cheese moules frites.

“It was the most fun that I had had in such a long time,— he says of the experience. “I’m entertaining, I’m teaching people how to cook, I’m cooking — those are the three things that I love most to do in this world. This is awesome!—

Teaching cooking has always been one of Folkman’s passions. When he’s not in the kitchen, the chef volunteers with the local nonprofit Brainfood, where he teaches inner-city high school kids to cook.

“We always invite him back because he’s great with the students,— program coordinator Carina Gervacio says. “He’s super high energy, which goes over really well with a high school crowd, and he’s always really patient, so he fields all their questions.—

It was this love of teaching, combined with the fun that he had cooking with Flay — and some encouragement by his girlfriend — that persuaded Folkman to try out for “The Next Food Network Star.— The show features 10 contestants living together in a house in New York City and competing for the prize of six episodes of a pilot show on the Food Network. A fan of the network, Folkman went to an open casting call at the Arlington, Va.-based Art Institute of Washington in December.

“I got asked about everything from my favorite food to my favorite color,— he jokes.

Folkman was soon called back and asked to cook for the casting directors. He made the blue cheese mussels that he had prepared during the “Throwdown,— and they were a hit. Next, Folkman was asked to write 30 original recipes and submit them to the show before finally being invited to New York to do a test shoot in the Food Network kitchen. He says the final stage made him feel like “a kid in a candy store.—

“I was like, This is where I always wanted to be! Oh my gosh, I’m at the Food Network! I’m on one of the sets cooking. I’m good from here!’ So long as I made it that far, it’s awesome,— Folkman says with a big smile.

Within a week, Folkman got the call that he had been cast on the show. As excited as he was, he still had to figure out who would hold down the fort at Granville Moore’s while he was in New York for six weeks.

“My two sous chefs actually approached me and they were like, Look, we can handle it. Just hire a cook and we’d like to step up to the challenge,’— Folkman says. “Not only did they do that, but we had a record sales month while I was gone.—

The finale for the show hasn’t been filmed yet, but Folkman says that even if he wins, he’ll still be cooking at Granville Moore’s.

“Granville’s is a part of me for the rest of my life,— he said. “I would definitely maintain my executive chef status here and do the menu and work here as much as humanly possible.—