He’s already graduated from mobile food trucks to fine dining, but Stephan Bogardus’ career has only just begun.
At age 13, he helped prepare meals at mobile food trucks along the North Fork, and worked at several East End eateries climbing his way up from busboy to cook to chef.
The 25-year-old, who serves as chef de cuisine at The North Fork Table & Inn in Southold, will appear in an episode of the Food Network show, “Chopped,” airing Tuesday at 10 p.m.
“I’ve always loved cooking, but I never knew I could make a living out of it,” Bogardus said. “I mean, I’m a 25-year-old from Southold. I never thought I’d be on 'Chopped,' or work at the top fine dining restaurant on Long Island. It’s unbelievable.”
His mentor, Thomas Seibert, a former executive chef at Four Doors Down in Mattituck who now lives in Cincinnati, influenced him to attend the Culinary Institute of America in upstate Hyde Park, which he graduated from in 2009.
“He always told me, ‘Before you get in over your head, know the basics,’” Bogardus said.
When Seibert was told his protege was going to be on the show, he wasn’t just excited -- he was proud.
“He’s always been a quick learner and all this success he made happen on his own,” said Seibert, 45, who has known him for eight years. “I hope he wins. For someone so young to go on that show, I don’t even think I could do that, and I’ve been in the business 30 years. It’s so good to see him doing so well.”
Bogardus said Gerry Hayden, executive chef of The North Fork Table & Inn, originally recommended him to “Chopped” producers in October 2011, when representatives from the show came by the restaurant for dinner.
The show challenges four chefs to compete for a $10,000 prize. Competitors are given a mystery basket of ingredients and must prepare dishes to be judged on creativity, presentation and taste, under a time crunch.
Early on in the competition, taped in May 2012, Bogardus had to incorporate smoked cow tongue -- which some may be turned off by, but not him. He calmly smiled.
“When I saw the smoked cow tongue, I was excited,” said Bogardus, who often prepares it at The North Fork Table & Inn. “I just kept thinking, ‘I hope this turns out as good as when I make it at the restaurant.’”
Although he had no problem with that, Bogardus admitted he struggled with timing and finding ingredients among an unorganized pantry, which wasted precious time.
“The hardest part was trying not to overextend myself and get too many things done all at once,” he said. “And they tell you never to try new things, but it’s hard not to on this show. As a chef, I’m meticulous and organized, so this was a difficult competition.”
Although he couldn’t say much else about the episode, Bogardus did say he walked away from it feeling more confident and thankful for the experience.
“It’s a pat on the back for my dedication throughout the years and to this restaurant for helping me get to this level,” Bogardus said. “I’m just so grateful to be a part of it all.”
On Tuesday, when the episode airs for the first time and reveals the winner, he will be at home with his parents and friends.
“Everything I’ve done so far has taken time away from spending time with my family, so it’ll be nice to share this with them,” he said.