Bits 'n' Pieces: Local chef grills up a mystery

By Sue Vorenberg, Columbian features reporter

Published:

 

Rick Browne had no idea what items to expect when he opened the mystery basket for his episode of "Chopped: Grill Masters" on the Food Network.

Browne, 65, of Ridgefield is one of four celebrity chefs who participated in episode four of the series, which airs at 9 p.m. Sunday

After opening the basket, he had 20 minutes to combine the four ingredients into an appetizer, but it wasn't easy, Browne said.

"Whoever chooses the items for this show has a perverse sense of humor, I'll tell you that," he said with a laugh.

Browne, author of more than 10 grilling and barbecue cookbooks and former host of the PBS TV show "Barbecue America," was one of 16 overall competitors on the show. The winners of each episode will square off in the finale at 9 p.m. Aug. 19.

But Browne isn't giving away any spoilers about whether he made the cut.

"There's a lot of static on the phone," Browne said when asked. "I can't hear you."

The grand prize is $50,000, to be presented on the Aug. 19 show.

Browne, who was a photo editor at The Columbian several years ago, has been writing cookbooks since 1999. He worked at the paper from 1998 until 2003, when he left to launch his television show, which ran through 2009.

"It's always been a love of mine to barbecue and grill outdoors," Browne said. "When we started it, my show was the only barbecue show on television. Now there's been an explosion of new shows and cookbooks."

After the show ended, Browne started working on his latest book project, "A Century of Restaurants." It tells the history of the United States through the tales of 100 of the country's oldest restaurants, including two in Washington and three in Portland. The book should be released in spring or summer 2013, he said.

Clark County residents will also get a chance to try some of Browne's cooking at Couvapalooza, an all-day music festival and benefit for Clark County school music programs Aug. 18 in Esther Short Park.

Browne is working with Battle Ground's Mill Creek Pub to provide food for the event.

"We're going to be serving tri-tip (steak), pulled pork, hot dogs for the kids and maybe some ribs," Browne said.

View Browne's Food Network bio and his competition online.

Bits 'n' Pieces appears Fridays and Saturdays. If you have a story you'd like to share, email bits@columbian.com.